Chacaltaya glacier in 1996 and today. Photo via Schema Root
The 18,000-year-old glacier in Bolivia that provided the world with its highest ski run has just finished completely drying up, thanks to our old pal climate change. And of course, it's taken the run with it. Now, thrill-seeking skiers will no longer be able to bomb down the slopes at 17,785 ft--but far worse, the glacier will no longer provide much needed water to the 2 million people that live around Bolivia's nearby capitol La Paz.The glacier has dried up 6 years earlier than most predictions had foreseen--the nasty work of global warming. Bloomberg reports:
Chacaltaya, bridge of ice in the Aymara Indian language, has been a barren slope devoid of permanent snow for about six months. That's when the glacier succumbed to warming weather during the Southern Hemisphere's summer, its final two glacial tongues melting away even faster than the year 2015 that scientists had forecast for its disappearance.Scientists, as expected, cited climate change as the culprit for the premature vanishing. Locals, many of whom skied the mountain all their lives, are devastated.
"Chacaltaya was my bride in white, now she's dressed for a funeral," Alfredo Martinez, 74, said of the 17,785-foot-high (5,280 meters) glacier where he and Club Andino Boliviano members skied its sole run north of La Paz, Bolivia's capital.But far more than a ski run has been lost here--a crucial part of Bolivia's water supply has been disrupted as well.
La Paz's main water supplies come from rainwater and melt-off from tropical glaciers in the Cordillera Real range, which includes Chacaltaya and the Tuni-Condoriri glacial system set in the mountains above the region's largest reservoir.The glaciers not only provide drinking water to Bolivian residents, but are also used to create power through hydroelectric dams--glacial runoff gives the region 80% of its electricity.
Chalk up another victim to climate change. Adios, Chacaltaya. Too bad--that 10 minute ski run was supposed to be pretty spectacular.
More on Climate Change and Glaciers:
Mexican Volcanic Glaciers Disappearing Due to Climate Change
Everest and Himalaya's Glaciers Could Disappear by 2035