Peruvian glacier says adios (and it’s taking the water supply with it)

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

According to PhD student Michel Baraer’s recent study of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca mountains, glaciers are retreating at an unexpectedly fast rate—one per cent a year, and rising—yet the volume of water draining into the Rio Santa has begun to significantly decrease.

“When a glacier starts to retreat, at some point you reach a plateau and from this point onwards, you have a decrease in the discharge of melt water from the glacier,” explained Baraer at a December meeting of the American Geophysical Union. He collaborated on the study with Jeffrey McKenzie, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Bryan Mark of Ohio State University.

“For almost all the watersheds we have studied,” added Baraer, “we have good evidence that we have passed peak water.” As a result, millions of people in Northern Peru may soon face serious shortages of electricity, irrigation and drinking water.

Read more about this study.

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