Climate change is at the top of the concerns of young people around the world. The effects of terrestrial warming are there for all to see, and in a few decades, the world may no longer be as we know it. New forms of life are born, until a few decades ago, the Pico Humboldt glacier was present, at an altitude of 4940 meters, in Venezuela. The Pico Humboldt glacier in the Sierra Nevada National Park is the last in Venezuela. The climate crisis has accelerated its melting, which has become increasingly rapid over the last decade. For the total disappearance of the glacier, it is now a matter of a few years. Meanwhile, a new biodiversity colonizes the bare rocks. A new research by the Institute of Environmental and Ecological Sciences of the University of the Andes (Ula) has confirmed, documenting the dramatic impact of climate change on Andean glaciers.
Downstream of the Pico Humboldt is Mérida: they called it the city of eternal snow. Overlooking the Andes mountain range, the urban center is now the guardian of the little that remains of the Venezuelan glacier. The snow-capped peaks of the mountains formed its unique landscape. It was the only city from which people could see snow in the whole country. Now the ice remains only on the Humboldt summit, and it still resists thanks to its position on the mountain, protected by an inlet. But a new biodiversity takes the opportunity to colonize the unnaturally exposed lands. The researchers collected images and samples of the Venezuelan glacier between 2019 and 2020 and noted that it retreated at an unusual and alarming rate. From 1910, the year of its first measurement, before the Pico Humboldt ascended its height the following year, the glacier would have lost 99% of its mass.
According to the Institute of Environmental and Ecological Sciences of the University of the Andes, in 2019, the area covered by the glacier was just equivalent to five football fields, or 4.5 hectares, vs the 300 hectares in 1910. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, with the rise in temperatures, glaciers worldwide have been affected by global warming. And the tropical Andes are one of the most vulnerable regions. Almost 10 billion tons of perennial snow from glaciers around the world was lost from 1961 to 2016, with an increasing rate in recent years, according to research by United Space in Europe (ESA). Furthermore, after Greenland and Antarctica, the glaciers of Latin America are the ones that contribute most to the rise of the seas and are even more at risk due to pressure from the mining lobbies, as in Chile.
Researchers question the future not only of the Antarctic ecosystem but also of metropolises such as London, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai as we know them. This scenario is feared by a study conducted by the Research Institute on Climate Impacts of Potsdam, together with the University of Potsdam, Columbia University in New York, and the University of Stockholm. More than half of the planet’s freshwater reserves are guarded by the Antarctic ice sheet, which is about five kilometers thick, Ricarda Winkelmann, co-author of the research, explains in a note released by the Potsdam Research Institute on Climate Impacts.
Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing an increase in the temperatures of the atmosphere and ocean waters. The ice covering the South Pole loses mass and becomes less stable. That causes the sea level of the entire planet to rise.