Iconic Bolivian Glacier Disappears: Melting Increased Three-Fold in Past 10 Years

chacaltaya glacier photo

photo: Cartson Drossel via flickr

Bolivia's Chacaltaya glacier, at an elevation of 17,400 ft home to the world's highest ski area, has succumbed to rising temperatures and has melted away. All that remains of the 18,000 year old glacier are a few small pieces of ice BBC News reports:Ten years ago scientists studying the Chacaltaya knew that its future was in question, but thought that rising temperatures wouldn't melt it entirely until 2015. But according to Dr Edson Ramirez, head of an international team of scientists who have been monitoring Chacaltaya, in the past decade the rate of thaw has increased three fold.

chacaltaya glacier in 2005 photo

This is what the Chacaltaya glacier looked like four years ago, looking uphill to where the first photo was taken. Photo: Wikipedia
Melting Glaciers Imperil Regional Water & Electricity Supplies
If all that were at stake were losing an oddball ski area—due to the elevation and extreme winter temperatures, even though it's in the Southern Hemisphere, it only operated November-March: during the summer—that'd be one thing. But the faster thawing of the glaciers in the region have some dire implications for water supply and electricity generation.

Dr Ramirez commented in the Miami Herald that he thnks other glaciers in the region may be melting much more quickly than thought. And that the glaciers in the mountains surrounding La Paz may be completely gone within 30 years. La Paz relies on these glaciers for a good deal of their water supply.

According to the World Bank, some 80 million people in the Andes are dependent on glaciers for water.

The melting glaciers also have implications for energy usage in the region: Bolivia, Ecador and Peru all get about 50% of their electricity from hydropower, for which annual glacial runoff is an important component.

via: BBC News, Miami Herald
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