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Global warming: Andes glacier melt to affect water supplies

New study tracks rapidly accelerating rate of ice decline since 1950s

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the largest in Patagonia at 30 kilometers long. The glacier descends from the Southern Patagonian Icefield (image top)—2100 meters elevation (6825 feet) in the Andes Mountains—down into the water and warmer altitudes of Lago Argentino at 180 meters above sea level.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the largest in Patagonia at 30 kilometers long. The glacier descends from the Southern Patagonian Icefield (image top)—2100 meters elevation (6825 feet) in the Andes Mountains—down into the water and warmer altitudes of Lago Argentino at 180 meters above sea level. Satellite image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Glaciers in large parts of the Andes have shrunk on average by 30 to 50 percent since the 1970s, and the unprecedented retreat could soon begin to affect water supplies for Andean communities.

Temperatures in the region have warmed by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past few decades, said Antoine Rabatel, a researcher at the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France, and lead author of a recent study on the glaciers in the region.

Globally, glaciers have been retreating at a moderate pace as the planet warmed after the peak of the Little Ice Age, a cold period lasting from the 16th to the mid-19th century. Over the past few decades, however, the rate of melting has increased steeply in the tropical Andes, at a pace not seen for at least the last 300 years. Continue reading

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