Read out El Nino heats west of South America In 10 to 15 years, the smaller glaciers of the South American Andes could have completely disappeared, scientists from the Research Institute IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le dévelopment) in Paris fear. Already, some glaciers have shrunk significantly. The reason for this is the climate phenomenon El Nino, which has become increasingly frequent and intense in the last 20 years, the researchers suspect.

Together with Bolivian and Ecuadorian colleagues, the French scientists studied two glaciers in the Andes. The Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia lies at an altitude between 5125 and 5375 meters, the Antizana Glacier in Ecuador reaches to 5760 meters. Both cover an area of ​​less than one square kilometer, which is typical of many small glaciers in the Andes.

Chacaltaya lost 40 percent of its thickness and two-thirds of its volume in the 1990s. In the five years after 1992, its surface has decreased by more than 40 percent. If you take this trend into the future, then Chacaltaya will be gone in 10 to 15 years. Even Antizana is then only very small.

The glaciers would melt faster and faster, the researchers say. In the 1990s, the Andean glaciers shrank three to five times faster than in the previous decade. Previous studies on glaciers in Peru showed that the shrinking of the glaciers accelerated in the early 1980s. display

In a detailed analysis, the researchers were able to prove that the glaciers melt mainly in the years in which the climate phenomenon El Nino is active. El Nino directs warm ocean currents to the west coast of South America. In the 1990s, there were three El Nino events that coincided exactly with the melting periods of the glaciers. Increasing the intensity and frequency of El Nino, probably due to global warming, coincides with increased glacier melt.

ddp, Axel Tillemans


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