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Climate Change: Peru lost over half of its glaciers in six decades

Peru has lost more than half of its glacier surface in just over 60 years due to climate change. From 2016 to 2020, 175 glaciers disappeared.

By Ground report
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Peru’s National Institute for Research in Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems (Inaigem) announced on Wednesday that the country has lost more than half of its glacier surface in just over 60 years due to climate change. In the period from 2016 to 2020 alone, 175 glaciers disappeared.

Jesús Gómez, Inaigem’s director of glacier research, explained that the primary factor causing this significant impact is the rise in the average global temperature, which is leading to the accelerated retreat of glaciers, especially those in tropical areas.

Inaigem presented a national inventory of glaciers on Wednesday. Mayra Mejía, a glaciologist and official at Inaigem, stated during the presentation that Peru has lost 56.22% of the glacier coverage recorded in 1962, when the first glacier inventory was conducted. She added that 175 glaciers disappeared in about 67.8 square kilometers in the four years from 2016 to 2020.

Disappearing Glaciers 

Some mountain ranges, such as Chila, have almost lost all their glacial surface. Chila is crucial because the first waters that give rise to the Amazon River, the world’s longest and mightiest river, descend from the glacier.

Peru’s glaciers, a vital source of fresh water and a significant contributor to the country’s unique biodiversity, have been receding at an unprecedented rate. According to recent reports, the country has lost more than half of its glacier surface in just over half a century. This rapid loss of glaciers signifies a profound environmental shift, with potentially devastating consequences for the region’s ecosystems and communities.

Climate change is the primary driver of this drastic glacier loss. Rising global temperatures have led to increased melting of glaciers, contributing to their rapid disappearance. The loss of these glaciers not only alters the landscape but also disrupts ecosystems, affects water supplies, and threatens the livelihoods of communities that depend on these resources.

The loss of Peru’s glaciers is not just a local issue; it has global implications. Glaciers play a crucial role in regulating the planet’s temperature and maintaining sea levels. Their loss can lead to rising sea levels, potentially causing coastal flooding and other climate-related disasters around the world.

Peru’s glaciers melting, affecting life

Albina Ruíz, the Minister of the Environment, stated that while we cannot avoid the loss of glaciers over time, we can slow down their disappearance by reducing pollution, expanding green areas, preventing forest fires, and remembering the life-giving role of mountains.

Currently, Peru has 1,050 square kilometers of glacial coverage left, which is about 44% of what researchers recorded in 1962.

Gómez pointed out that climate change and human activity are impacting not just Peru but also glaciers in mid-latitudes and even at the poles of the earth, where we are losing large masses of ice.

According to Inaigem, glaciers are water reserves in the form of ice that allow us to have liquid in dry times. Its retreat affects the supply of water that feeds and sustains native grasslands and forests. In this way, wild animals that feed on the flora of high areas see their existence at risk.

Beatriz Fuentealva, president of Inagem, recalled that the loss of glaciers increases the risks for those who live in lower areas, as happened in 1970 when a huge sheet of ice from the snow-capped Huascarán, in the northern Andes, broke off after a 2000 earthquake. 7.9 and fell on a lagoon causing a mud avalanche that destroyed the city of Yungay and left more than 20,000 dead.

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