In Chile, glaciers are “indicators” of global warming

There is a crack in the San Rafael Glacier and a tall iceberg due to the ten-story building falling into the lake. Scientists say glaciers in the far south of Chile are an “excellent indicator” of the effects of global warming.

One hundred icebergs float on the surface of Lake San Rafael, located in the Aysan region, 1,700 km south of Santiago. 150 years ago, the glacier of the same name covered two thirds of the lake. It has now retreated 11 km inside the valley and is no longer visible on the lake.

According to Chilean scientists, a total of 39 glaciers make up the Campo de Hilo Norte (Northern Patagonian Icefield), which together with the Campo de Hierlo Sur (Southern Icefield) forms the third largest mass of ice in the world after Antarctica and Greenland.

The melting of glaciers is a natural phenomenon that climate change is accelerating “significantly”, reminds AFP George O’Quington, head of the regional glaciology unit at the Directorate General of Water (DGA).

“Glaciers are an excellent indicator of climate change,” said Alexis Segovia, 42, another researcher at this unit. He recalls that the phenomenon observed in the Ison region is visible in almost all of Chile’s 26,000 glaciers: only two have surface increased.

Data confirmed by the European Space Agency that glaciers in Patagonia, in both Chile and Argentina, are retreating faster than anywhere else in the world.

Alexis Segovia also points out that this is a vicious cycle because icy surfaces “reflect a significant amount of incoming radiation to Earth”. If this surface continues to shrink, the planet will “warm rapidly”.

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Aerial view of the San Rafael Glacier in southern Chile on February 13, 2022 (AFP – Pablo Cozzaglio)

Another sign is the flooding of areas that were previously unaffected by this event. George O’Quington explains, “The fall of icebergs produces a huge flood called + flood by glacial lake overflow”. “There has been flooding in areas that were not previously flooded”, with water swelling in the region’s rivers and which can affect urban areas and further upstream infrastructure.

On another lake in the region, Lake General Carrera, the second largest lake in South America, shared by Chile and Argentina, Santos Catalans, who earn their livelihood by raising cows and sheep, board a boat. She rides on the water of a fjord. Cordon Contreras Glacier.

Thus he earns extra money for transporting tourists. The sexagenarian is witness to changes taking place: “Fifteen or twenty years ago, it started snowing very little and it’s melting more and more because the heat is so strong”, he says, at the top. Of the boat

At any time, “an ice can collapse and take everything away”, warns the sailor, who is experiencing this change in the front line.

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