Thursday, September 23, 2010

Glacial retreat in Ecuador

John Vidal in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” (UK): The Cayambe volcano lies dead on the equator line in Ecuador and is the third-highest mountain in all the Americas at 17,159 ft (5,230m). It is really only climbed by serious "Andenistas" - as opposed to Alpinists - because of its crevasses and icecap, so the great Guardian/Oxfam climate expedition stopped at a modest 4,675m (14,250ft), which is nearly the height of Mont Blanc.

Okay, we went nearly all the way by Toyota pickup on a perilous track, but the wind was bitter and the snow lay deep on the glaciers. Or what was left of them.

Where, just 25 years ago, there had been a three-kilometre long, 60-metre thick avalanche of ice, tumbling off the peak, we gazed down on bare, black rock. A whole valley once filled with ice was mostly empty. The snout of the glacier was 1,800 ft higher than it had been.

…For the next few years, glacier retreat may not be a great problem around Cayambe, because the extra melt water from the icecap makes up for the lack of rain that is being experienced. But this cannot last. Soon, the melting of the Andean cryosphere - or iceworld - will impact heavily on urban water supplies and therefore on some of the poorest people in the world, who depend on the rivers, which in turn depend on the melt water off mountains like Cayambe….

Cayambe volcano, shot by Martin Iturbide, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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