Last Glacier in Indonesia to Melt in a Matter of Years


Photo via Lincoln Hall

There's only one glacier left in all of Indonesia. It can be found on Puncak Jaya, a mountain range in isolated eastern Indonesia -- for now. Lonnie Thompson, one of the world's premier glaciologists, just finished a journey to the region to study the glacier, which he had previously assumed would remain there for at least a few more decades. His findings, however, now paint a different picture: the last glacier in the Pacific will have fully melted within the next couple of years. The Washington Post reports:

Lonnie Thompson spent years preparing for his expedition to the remote, mist-shrouded mountains of eastern Indonesia, hoping to chronicle the affect of global warming on the last remaining glacier in the Pacific. He's worried he got there too late. Even as he pitched his tent on top of Puncak Jaya, the ice was melting beneath him...

By the time they were ready to head home, ice around their sheltered campsite had melted a staggering 12 inches (30 centimeters).

Their trip was just 13 days long.


The glacier, found in the Papua region of Indonesia, is of particular interest to Thompson due to its location on the fringe of the world's warmest oceans. He views them as a sort of "missing link" in how regional weather patterns operate. But he may not be viewing much of anything for long:

"These glaciers are dying," Thompson told the WaPo. "Before I was thinking they had a few decades, but now I'd say we're looking at years." Indeed -- according to the report, the ice that once covered most of Papua (tens of thousands of square miles) thousands of years ago is now only 1 square mile wide, and only 32 ft deep. Here's a video of the glacier from another recent expedition, that should give you some idea of what little is left of it (via the Earth Institute):

Scouting expedition, Puncak Jaya glacier, Papua, Indonesia from Earth Institute on Vimeo.

One question remains: Whatever could be causing these once-massive glaciers to melt so fast? I sure hope those scientists come up with some kind of theory soon!

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