Climate change melting glaciers in the Andes
January 22, 2013
Pastoruri Glacier. Photo by: Edubucher/Wikimedia Commons.
Glaciers are melting faster than ever in the tropical Andes, warns a new study published in The Cryosphere, which puts the blame for vanishing glaciers squarely on climate change. The study — the most comprehensive to date — found that since the 1970s glacier melt in the region has been speeding up, threatening freshwater supplies in Peru and Bolivia.
"The ongoing recession of Andean glaciers will become increasingly problematic for regions depending on water resources supplied by glacierised mountain catchments, particularly in Peru," the scientists write. They note that freshwater supplies in Peru's Santa River Valley as well as in Bolivia's capital city, La Paz, will likely be imperiled as glaciers vanish.
The scientists looked at precipitation changes over the last century in the region, but found that it could not explain the current melting, which they describe as "unprecedented." Instead the glaciers are melting due to rising temperatures from climate change: regional temperatures have jumped by 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.26 degrees Fahrenheit) during the last fifty years.
Not surprisingly, the scientists say that small, low-altitude glaciers are currently most at risk of disappearing as temperatures rise.
"Because the maximum thickness of these small, low-altitude glaciers rarely exceeds 40 metres, with such an annual loss they will probably completely disappear within the coming decades," said lead author Antoine Rabatel, researcher at the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in France.
Climate change is having a massive impact on the world: from earlier springs to melting Arctic sea ice and from rising sea levels to increasing extreme weather. Yet despite increasingly urgent and dire warnings from scientists, governments, and global institutions like the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA), global greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb and international efforts to cut emissions move languidly at best.
"This study has been conducted with scientific motivations, but if the insight it provides can motivate political decisions to mitigate anthropogenic impact on climate and glacier retreat, it will be an important step forward," Rabatel says.
CITATION: A. Rabatel, B. Francou, A. Soruco, J. Gomez, B. Caceres, J. L. Ceballos, R. Basantes, M. Vuille, J.E. Sicart,
C. Huggel, M. Scheel, Y. Lejeune, Y. Arnaud, M. Collet, T. Condom, G. Consoli, V. Favier, V. Jomelli,
R. Galarraga, P. Ginot, L. Maisincho, J. Mendoza1, M. Menegoz, E. Ramirez, P. Ribstein, W. Suarez,
M. Villacis, and P.Wagnon. Current state of glaciers in the tropical Andes: a multi-century
perspective on glacier evolution and climate change. The Cryosphere, 7, 81–102, 2013. doi:10.5194/tc-7-81-2013.
Obama: 'We will respond to the threat of climate change'
(01/21/2013) In Obama's second inauguration speech today, the newly re-elected president of the U.S. reaffirmed his commitment to taking action on climate during his second term. Noting that ignoring climate change would "betray our children and future generations," Obama argued whole-heartedly for a transition to clean energy.
NASA says 2012 was the 9th warmest year since 1880, blames global warming
(01/15/2013) 2012 was the ninth warmest year since annual record-keeping began in 1880 say NASA scientists who cited rising greenhouse gas emissions as the chief culprit.
Soot is second biggest man-made contributor to global warming
(01/15/2013) Soot is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming, according to a comprehensive new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.
Climate change already pummeling U.S. according to government report
(01/14/2013) Climate change is on the march across the U.S. according to a new draft report written by U.S. government scientists with input from 240 experts. It documents increasing and worsening extreme weather, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification among other impacts. Released Friday for public review, the report will be officially launched later this year or early in 2014.
Paradigm shift needed to avert global environmental collapse, according to author of new book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse
(01/10/2013) Global strategist, trained educator, and international lecturer Daniel Rirdan set out to create a plan addressing the future of our planet. His book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse, published this year, does just that. "It has been a sixty hour a week routine," Rirdan told mongabay.com in a recent interview. "Basically, I would wake up with the burden of the world on my shoulders and go to sleep with it. It went on like this for eighteen months." It becomes apparent when reading The Blueprint that it was indeed a monumental undertaking.
Australia reels from record heatwave, fires
(01/09/2013) Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
2012 was America's warmest year on record
(01/08/2013) 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Mountain pine beetle threatening high-altitude, endangered trees
(01/02/2013) In the western U.S., few trees generally grow in higher altitudes than the whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). Providing shelter and food for bears, squirrels and birds, the whitebark pine ecosystems also help regulate water flow from snowmelt. But, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), climate change has produced a novel threat for these high-altitude forests : mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae).
Copyright mongabay 1999-2014