Andean glaciers melting at fastest rate in 300 years
Andean glaciers have shrunk between 30 and 50 per cent since the 1970s and could melt away altogether in coming years, according to a study in the journal The Cryosphere.
The glaciers, a vital source of fresh water for tens of millions of South Americans, are retreating at their fastest rates in more than 300 years, according to the most comprehensive review of Andean ice loss so far.
The study included data on about half of all Andean glaciers and blamed the ice loss on an average temperature spike of 0.7 of a degree over the past 70 years.
The researchers warned that future warming could wipe out lower-altitude smaller glaciers that provide fresh water for communities.
“This is a serious concern because a large proportion of the population lives in arid regions to the west of the Andes,” said Antoine Rabatel, the lead author of the study and a scientist with the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble.