Colombia’s glaciers could disappear by 2050: scientists

Nevado del Ruiz (Image: IDEAM)

Colombia is facing the prospect of seeing its six glaciers disappear by the year 2050 should they continue to melt at the current rate, according to a report from the country’s meteorological institute.

In 1850, the South American country had a glacial area of 349 square kilometers but with the effects of global climate change, the area has been reduced to a mere 37 square kilometers.

The eternal snowy mountain ranges of El Cocuy and Santa Marta in the north of the country as well as the four snow-capped volcanoes of Ruiz, Santa Isabel, Tolima and Huila will be no more as the irreversible process looks set to seal their fate within the next 30 years.

Colombia’s glaciers in particular are disappearing at a faster rate than the global average as their sensitivity to current climatic conditions, differences in altitude, topography and location in active volcanic zones contribute to an accelerated decline.

The Santa Isabel glacier in particular has fallen victim to existing conditions. The glacier, which is located in the Tolima province had an area of 1.01 km2  in January 2016 but that surface area had diminished to 0.63 km2 by February this year, a 37% reduction.

Colombia’s El Cocuy range is the most extensive glacial mass in the country spanning 13.3 kmbut it too has seen a significant 4.8% (0.68km2) reduction between June 2016 and December 2017.

IDEAM put the rapid reduction of Colombian glaciers down to the impact of the weather phenomenon El Niño, as well as low level clouds and high solar radiation, among others.

Director of the institute Omar Franco also pointed out in an interview with El Tiempo that a gradual decline of snowfall due to changing weather patterns will accelerate the process of disappearance further.

The current condition that we are showing is the first thermometer of climate change and the consequences of global warming. If the current global climatic conditions persist and climatic variability is accentuated, such as the occurrence of events such as El Niño, it is likely that the extinction of the snowfalls will occur soon.

Omar Franco – Director of IDEAM

According to Franco, the effects of global warming could spell the end of Santa Isabel for example within 10 years and that the glacier the Sierra de Santa Marta could be gone by the year 2040.

Colombia lost almost 20% of its glaciers in past 6 years: survey

Just 0.17% of the Andes’ glaciers are in Colombia, while Chile and Argentina account for 90%.

Fellow South American countries Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru currently posses 99% of the world’s tropical glaciers. The remaining 1% is in eastern Africa.

Colombia accounts for 2% of tropical Andean glaciers and 36 % of equatorial glaciers.

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