November 26, 2010 13:48:38 | in environment
Adapted from Spanish by Diana Schwalb
| Photo 1: Looking at the eastern face of Ausungate mountain in Cusco. The low water level of the river signals shows the retreat of the mountain's glacier. (Photos: Miguel Bellido/El Comercio)
By Roxabel Ramón, El Comercio
“Glaciers in the south are retreating much faster than those in the Cordillera Blanca. It is urgent that we begin to monitor them,” says Cesar Portocarrero, one of Peru's expert in glaciers.
Portocarrero is responsible for the Glaciers Unit of the at the Ministry of Agriculture. “The glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca [in Peru's northern Andes] have retreated by 30% in 30 years. But in Cusco, only in the Ausangate mountain range, the decline has been 50%,” he says.
His claim is based on comparing satellite photos by reports done by the University of Ohio. For the past 30 years researchers from the university have monitored the glaciers of Quelccaya mountain in the Vilcanota range in Ucsco. And since 2006, Portocarrero has studied Inkachiriaska mountain in the Vilcabamba range.
The white cover of the Quelccaya Mountain has been reduced in an obvious way. At the bottom, you can find the Sivinacocha Lake, whose water level has greatly increased in recent years due to the melting of the ice. Justiniano Mamani Nina lives in a hut on the shore of this lake. Today he says wistfully: “When I was a kid, I used to collect eggs from the island, but now the water has completely covered it. The snow used to come all the way down to here and I used to run in it.” This mountain is the only one in Cusco that has consistent monitoring.
Victor Carlotto, director of the Institute of Geology, Mining and Metallurgy, stresses the urgency of setting up a glaciology office in Cusco “to measure the loss of the resource and prevent the risks.” Currently the melting of ice has formed lakes at the bottom of several glaciers in Cusco. It is not known which or how many, but they could overflow at any time, and if there are populations in the lowland areas, it could triggering a disaster.
Last month, a block of snow broke off the Chicon Moutain and caused the lake that had been formed to overflow and trigger a landslide. After the episode, the regional president of Cusco, Hugo Gonzales, said he would assess the possibility of financing a branch of the Glaciology Unit of Huaraz in Cusco.
Nicole Bernex, director of the Center for Research of Applied Geography from the Pontifica Universidad Catolica, agrees that the melting is more rapid in the south. “The sad thing is that there is no research,” she says. “The Ohio State University studies the Quelccaya Mountain and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid studies the Coropuna Mountain in Arequipa (which recedes 2.4 square kilometers per year). But there are over 1,000 unassessed glaciers because the government does not allocate budget.”
Setting up a station requires an investment of US $10,000. “But to study in detail we would require several million dollars,” she explains.
Portocarrero reports that it has been established that “the farther you go from the equator, the more abrupt the climatic changes are. This is also seen in Bolivia.”
Add to del.icio.us |