The white blanket of glaciers is shrinking due to climate change on the planet, and in Bolivia it will be affected by the dark soot generated by the devastating fires in Chiquitania, the country's traditional southeastern plain, which will accelerate melting.
The Efe Agency visited the impressive Huayna Potosí snowy mountain, one of Bolivia's most emblematic, at 6,088 meters, to see the impact of the climate crisis on the glacier.
"Ten years ago, it was the snowiest glacier, but now it's always changing," mountain guide Eulogio Llusco, who climbs 25 years ago and has climbed Huayna Potosí more than 700 times, told Efe. For him, the place has changed a lot and there is less and less snow.
The big fires
The global problem of global warming is compounded in Bolivia by this year's major fire disaster.
The wind carries dark carbon particles – popularly known as soot – from the fire that ravaged the east of the country in August and destroyed millions of hectares of forest and grassland, as the head of the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) in Bolivia commented. Álvaro Soruco, in an interview with Efe.
These particles have the ability to absorb sunlight, which leads to accelerated melting of glaciers.
"When there are more dark carbon particles deposited in the glaciers, the melting increases because the glacier absorbs more energy," explained the researcher.
Soot travels through wind or rain and is deposited in snowflakes. These particles may have a future effect on rainfall frequency and intensity and melt acceleration.
Defrost before the fire
Soruco monitored the tropical glaciers in the country before the fire to check for ice loss. He said that overall, since 1975, at least 50 percent of the ice cover in the country's snowy mountains has been lost.
According to the survey, at least 80% of the most affected glaciers are below 5,400 meters in altitude and lose about 1.20 meters of water each year. Those above this altitude lose 60 centimeters of water a year.
"Almost all over the world, glaciers are losing mass, usually the ones that lose the most water at groundwater level are the glaciers in the southern Andes," he said.
The Andes are one of the longest in the world, passing through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. According to the researcher, 99% of tropical glaciers are concentrated in this range, of which 70% are in Peru, 20% in Bolivia, 4% in Ecuador and 4% in Colombia and Venezuela.
The water, the danger
If tropical glaciers, considered a thermometer of the climate crisis, continue into this accelerated melt, they could affect future water supplies, according to Soruco.
La Paz and neighboring El Alto, from which Huayna Potosí can be seen, experienced one of the worst water supply crises in 2016 due to the fall in the level of the dams that feed both cities due to lack of rain.
"Water is an undervalued resource, and people are not aware of its importance because there is a cycle, but if that cycle changes, it will be harder to access," he warned.
Foundation sensitizes population
To raise awareness of the importance of glaciers, the Ponchos Blancos Foundation hikes several of them so that people can see the impact of the climate crisis on the snowy mountains.
"We seek to demonstrate the regression that exists in the place and make people aware of the importance of these places," Foundation director Óscar Salinas told Efe during a visit to Huayna Potosí.
They also make recommendations to visitors, as well as guides, to preserve what Salinas calls the "natural treasures" that are becoming extinct and thus contribute in some way to their conservation.
Among the basic recommendations is to reduce contamination during the rides. He also warns that it is necessary to avoid the practice of burning pastures, so as not to accelerate the thaw due to soot.
. (tagsToTranslate) bolivia (t) fire bolivia (t) glaciers (t) pollution (t) climate change (t) Andes