Half of Peru’s glaciers are gone

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FILE PHOTO: A view of the lake formed by meltwater from the Pastoruri glacier, as seen from atop the glacier in Huaraz, September 19, 2013. Picture taken September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/File Photo

In the last 60 years, Peru has witnessed a reduction of more than half of its glacier surface, with 175 glaciers succumbing to extinction due to climate change between 2016 and 2020, as revealed by Peruvian scientists affiliated with the state agency dedicated to glacier research. Peru’s National Institute of Research of Mountain Glaciers and Ecosystems (INAIGEM) stated that 56.22% of the glacial coverage documented in 1962 has been lost in the span of 58 years.

The primary factor exacerbating this phenomenon is the rise in the global average temperature, leading to a rapid retreat of glaciers, particularly those located in tropical regions. Presently, Peru retains only 44% of the glacial coverage recorded in 1962, amounting to 1,050 square kilometres.

There are some mountain ranges in Peru where glaciers have nearly vanished, such as Chila, which has witnessed a 99% reduction in its glacial surface since 1962. Chila holds significance as it serves as the source of the initial waters that contribute to the Amazon River, the world’s longest and mightiest river.

The diminishing glaciers pose heightened risks for inhabitants in lowland areas. in 1970. a massive portion of ice from the snow-capped Huascarán in the northern Andes detached following a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. The ice fell into a lagoon, triggering a mud avalanche that devastated the city of Yungay and resulted in over 20,000 casualties.

The melting glaciers in Peru serve as a precursor to changes in other parts of South America and the Amazon region. The melting will extend beyond Peru as temperatures increase in the Andes valleys, leading to alterations in wind patterns and precipitation due to the warming climate. The initial impacts of climate change in Peru are already manifesting prominently in the Andes region, which has experienced a more accelerated warming compared to the coastal areas influenced by the moderating effects of the Pacific Ocean.

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