Peru’s tropical glaciers are melting at an alarming rate

A new alarming alarm about melting ice is also coming from the tropical glaciers of the Peruvian Andes, which, according to new research in the cryosphere, are melting very quickly. A study group from Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) estimated that glaciers in the area would shrink by almost 30% between 2000 and 2016.

Almost all tropical glaciers are concentrated in Peru, where 92% of its territory is covered by ice in all tropics of the country. Glaciers in these regions form at altitudes greater than 4,000 meters, but are very sensitive to climate variability and change, even more so than Arctic glaciers.

For example, since the 1980s, the Andean glaciers that make up the so-called Cordillera Blanca have melted at a faster rate. Researcher Thorsten Zehaus of the FAU Institute of Geography analyzed various satellite data from Landsat missions and found that 29% of glaciers retreated from 2000 to 2016. Since 1973, even 170 glaciers have disappeared, an area roughly comparable to that of 80,000 football fields.

Moreover, the rate of glacier melting between 2013 and 2016 is four times faster than in previous years, indicating that this melting is increasing in recent years. In particular, there has been a high level of activity in recent years in the El NiƱo phenomenon, where water currents in the equatorial Pacific Ocean have led to higher temperatures and reduced precipitation in Peruvian Andean regions.

The retreat of glaciers of this magnitude may also increase the risk of the destruction of natural dams and, consequently, flooding. In the Cordillera Blanca region alone, 25,000 people have already died as a result of such disasters between 1941 and 2003, and more are expected to occur in the coming years.