Peru’s Cordillera Blanca rapidly melting, threatens ecosystem

A warming process in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca – the Andean country’s most important glacier system – is causing ice and snow to melt at an accelerated rate, jeopardizing ecosystems, water supplies and the safety of Peruvians in the region, the country’s main water authority reiterated this week.

The White Cordillera’s glacial surface has shrunk by 27 percent, from 723 square kilometers in the 1970s, to approximately 631 square kilometers today, reported Peru’s National Water Agency, or ANA.

“As the iced surface receded, the glaciers subdivided and lakes have appeared,” said the Director of ANA’s Glaciology Unit, Marco Zapata.

In the Peruvian Andes, glaciers regulate many hydrologic basins. These glaciers retain the precipitation in the rainy season, to let it off by melting into the rivers during the dry season, and play a decisive role in climate regulation.

But, according to Yves Arnaud, a scientist employed by France’s Institute for Developmental Research, “a retreat of these glaciers is being observed, most probably as a consequence of the global warming, and leads to worry about the future of the water resources.”

In January, just two years after residents and local authorities first sounded the alarm, climate change was blamed for the complete disappearance of Puno’s Quilca Mountain’s snow cap.

The lack of snow atop Quilca Mountain is likely to cause water shortages in the region, especially for populations living around the mountain.

A year prior, in may 2008, Irena’s Glaciological Unit reported that the Broggi Glacier, located atop Cordillera Blanca — the largest glacier chain in the tropics – had completely disappeared.

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