published on 8 January 2021 in water

The last Venezuelan glacier is about to disappear

Within just a few years, the Pico Humboldt glacier, at an altitude of 4,940 meters in the Sierra Nevada National Park, will have completely disappeared. This is the last glacier in Venezuela, the melting of which has been accelerated by the climate crisis, especially in the last decade. And now a new biodiversity is colonising the rocks left bare by the retreating ice. This is stated in a new study by the Institute of Environmental and Ecological Sciences of the University of the Andes (Ula) documenting the impact of climate change on Andean glaciers.

All that remains of the Pico Humboldt Glacier. Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Currently, the only ice left is on the summit of Pico Humboldt and is surviving due to its location on the mountain, protected by a shady trough. Researchers collected images and samples of the Venezuelan glacier between 2019 and 2020 and noted that it was retreating at an unusual and alarming rate. Since 1910, when the first measurements were taken, the glacier has lost 99% of its mass. According to the researchers, the area covered by the glacier in the 2019 monitoring campaign was barely equivalent to five football fields, or 4.5 hectares, compared to 300 in 1910. The tropical Andes are one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change and, after Greenland and Antarctica, the glaciers of Latin America are the major contributors to rising sea levels.

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