The first Andean glacier to completely evaporate away. Venezuela is the first country to completely lose all its glaciers in South America. Who will be next?
By CHRISTINA LARSON and FEDERICA NARANCIO
“MERIDA, Venezuela (AP) — Blackouts shut off the refrigerators where the scientists keep their lab samples. Gas shortages mean they sometimes have to work from home. They even reuse sheets of paper to record field data because fresh supplies are so scarce.
“As their country falls apart, a hardy team of scientists in Venezuela is determined to transcend the political and economic turmoil to record what happens as the country’s last glacier vanishes.
“Temperatures are warming faster at the Earth’s higher elevations than in lowlands, and scientists predict that the glacier — an ice sheet in the Andes Mountains — could be gone within two decades.
“If we left and came back in 20 years, we would have missed it,” says Luis Daniel Llambí, a mountain ecologist at the University of the Andes in Mérida.
“Scientists say Venezuela will be the first country in South America to lose all its glaciers.
“Throughout history, glaciers have waxed and waned numerous times. But the rapid pace of glacial retreat over the past century and a half, accelerated by human activities and the burning of fossil fuels, creates a new urgency — and opportunity — for scientists to understand how freshly exposed rock forms new soil and eventually new ecosystems.
“While most of the planet’s ice is stored in the polar regions, there are also glaciers in some mountainous regions of the tropics — primarily in South America…”
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