February 24, 2011

Peruvian Glacier Has Lost Half Of Its Ice

"Recent scientific studies indicate that between June 1983 and August 2006, a glacier on Peru's Huaytapallana Mountain has lost 50 percent of its surface ice," Erasmo Meza, manager of natural resources and the environment in the central Andean region of Junin, told the official Andina news agency.

Losing the ice in just 23 years, officials warned of concerns of climate change's growing threat to fresh water resources in the Andes mountains. Meza continued, telling AFP the 1.9 square miles of ice shrinkage on Huaytapallana was caused by global warming and increases concerns about agriculture, health, fresh water resources and disaster mitigation in the region.

To prevent further deterioration on the 18,230-foot mountain, whose steep, jagged glacier and breathtaking lakes are popular tourist draws, the regional government of Junin is developing a project to declare Huaytapallana a natural conservation area -- a move Meza says should stave off damage from a mining company doing a feasibility study in the area.

The study of Huaytapallana shows a sharper rate of glacial melt than other major findings. A 2009 World Bank-published report said that Peru's glaciers have shrunk by 22 percent in the last 35 years, leading to a 12 percent loss in the amount of fresh water reaching the coast, where most of Peru's population reside. Perhaps the most threatened is Huascaran Mountain, Peru's highest point at 22,200 feet.

The Andes are the scene of many glacier studies. Called the "Roof of the Americas", this region comprises more than 100 peaks taller than 16,500 feet.

The study also warned that Andean glaciers and the peaks' permanent snow caps could disappear in 20 years if nothing is done to alleviate climate change, echoing the findings of Peruvian agencies.