Glaciers don’t normally make the headline news. But that was before Venezuela’s last glacier is close to disappearing for good, according to a recent report. The country’s Humboldt Glacier in the Andes Mountains is melting at a rapid rate, and it’ll soon be gone before scientists can study the ice particles.
What does this recent report reveal about science?
Plenty Of Ice For Everyone
When Carsten Braun, a geography professor at Westfield State University, visited the Venezuelan Andes in 2009, he was amazed at the glaciers found in the Pico Humboldt, the country’s second-highest mountain peak. He measured the Humboldt Glacier with a GPS, knowing he would one day want his scientific recordings.
Well, he had no idea that day has finally arrived. Braun has visited the glacier several times since 2009, but now he has noticed drastic and upsetting changes in the glacier’s size.
On a recent trip, Braun noticed the glacier is shrinking at a remarkable rate. He noted it looked like “draping a pancake over a slope.” The glacier is now a thin piece of ice no more than 65 feet thick. It would only take someone just one mile to walk around the glacier’s entire circumference.
But why exactly is the glacier shrinking and how soon will it be completely gone?
Sensitive To Climate Change
Climate change is occurring. That is a scientific fact. The debate that rages on to this day stems from those who do not understand the science behind the warming temperatures, melting ice sheets, increased severity of extreme weather events, and so on, while science has shown time and time again that these changes are due to manmade burning of fossil fuels releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere at a rate that is unprecedented in the history of our planet.
Venezuela has found itself nestled between this debate. Scientists are comparing the country’s glaciers to others, including ones found in China and Tanzania. But Venezuela’s Humboldt Glacier will be the first one to completely disappear for good due to the drastic changes in the climate’s heat. Glaciers are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than other environments.
Braun reported, “What we’re seeing now is maybe the last gasp of the Humboldt Glacier.”
Scientists expect the glacier to melt away in the next decade or two.
Why We Should Be Concerned
For the average person, losing a glacier probably isn’t a big deal. We have other glaciers, don’t we? Why are we concerned about Venezuela’s glacier?
Glaciers are more important than what you think. While their contribution to sea-level rise isn’t that significant, glaciers are a critical source of water— for drinking, hydropower, and agriculture purposes. It would be a drastic impact on our environment if we were to lose this valuable resource.
According to researchers, glaciers have been rapidly shrinking in size since the 1970s. Glaciers may have been stronger 30 years ago, but now the majority of them, Venezuela’s Humboldt included, have numerous cracks and meltwater.
“It looks sick,” said Maximiliano Bezada, a former geomorphology professor. “It will die very soon.”
Currently, Humboldt is vulnerable and at its smallest size ever reported. It will disappear very soon, that is an accepted fact. If scientists aren’t watching, the glacier will vanish right before their eyes.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?