The ice caps in Patagonia are thinning by a meter annually

Patagonian Ice Caps: The Largest in the Southern Hemisphere, Vulnerable to Climate Change and in Need of Urgent Action

The Patagonian ice caps, located in Argentina and Chile, are the largest in the southern hemisphere after Antarctica, covering about 16,000 square kilometers. Despite their vast size, these ice caps are relatively unknown. However, a recent study published in the journal ‘Communications Earth & Environment’ by the Nature group has re-evaluated the volume of the Patagonian ice fields using remote sensing and satellite imagery. The study revealed that these ice caps are highly vulnerable to climate change, containing 40 times more ice than all the glaciers in the European Alps.

Led by Johannes Furst from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, an international research group estimated that the Patagonian ice caps hold 5,351 cubic kilometers of ice, with some glaciers reaching thicknesses of 1,400 meters. The study highlighted the dynamic nature of these glaciers, with some retreating while others remain stable. The retreat of the glacial fronts is influenced by the depth of the lake basins they flow into, with faster retreat in deeper basins.

The speed of the Patagonian glaciers, exceeding that of European Alps glaciers, results in an annual loss of one meter of ice. This loss not only impacts the region’s water resources but also has a significant impact on surrounding ecosystems as well as poses an increased risk to extreme weather events affecting this region. The study emphasizes urgent action is needed to address climate change’s impact on Patagonian ice caps and support its ecosystem.

In conclusion, it is crucial to understand and address climate change’s effects on Patagonian ice caps to protect its ecosystem and preserve its natural resources for future generations. Further studies need to be conducted to gain a better understanding of how climate change affects these dynamic systems and what actions can be taken to mitigate its impact on this region’s biodiversity and human well-being.


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