If you thought Peruvian Andes was home to glaciers that were untouched by the human civilization, think again. A new study reported that the glacial loss is unprecedented, and glaciers across the Andes are melting away rapidly. In just 16 years between 2000 and 2016, 30% of glaciers have melted away. It is important to bear in mind that all glaciers in Peru are tropical in nature. Tropical glaciers are found 13,000 feet above sea level.
The dramatic study was published in a journal called The Cryosphere, on the 30th of September, 2019. According to the researchers, the glacial retreat is equal to the area of 80,000 soccer fields. At the outset of the study, there were 1,973 glaciers in Peru. 170 of them have completely disappeared now. In addition, between 2013 and 2016, glacial retreat was four times higher than in the preceding years.
Many of the rivers in Peru are fed by glaciers and people depend on them for water. Glaciers preserve moisture and precipitation in the form of ice and snow. During summers, water is released from glaciers which is used by communities that live around them. If the glaciers melt away, all that will be left in Andes are rocks and stones. Most importantly, glacial water is used to power hydroelectric plants. If glaciers melt away, Peru can plunge into darkness quickly.
Researchers also fear that the rapid glacial retreat will result in floods downstream and cause destruction to people living in the valleys. Glacial lakes often empty out without warning and claim thousands of lives. El Nino, global warming and a drastic reduction in rainfall have all contributed to the glacial retreat. It is not clear at the moment if the glaciers will ever fill up again, even with concerted efforts to reduce global warming.
If you are visiting Peru anytime soon, make sure to visit the glaciers before they melt away permanently. This isn’t an apocalyptic vision, but is an actual climatic apocalypse that is taking place right under our noses.