in South America
glaciers are located in the Andes
mountains and in Patagonia. Except for a
few cases, they have shown an enhanced retreat trend in recent decades.
hold the third largest land-ice area, following Antarctica and
Greenland, which is also the world's largest mountain glacier.
Northern Patagonian Icefield lost about 3.4% (140 km²) of its area
between 1942 and 2001. Thinning rates of up to 30 meter per year have
been observed recently in the Southern Patagonian Icefield, with a
relevant contribution to sea level rise.
glaciers are receding at a faster rate than in any other region in the
in South America are critically important as water
resource for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses.
The loss of
glaciers not only directly causes landslides, flash
floods and glacial lake overflow, but also increases annual
variation in water flows in rivers.
A great deal of
the population surrounding the central and southern Andes reside in
arid areas and are dependent on water runoff from glaciers that melt
during the warmer summer months. In these areas, a continuation of the
current retreat will eventually deplete the glacial ice and
substantially reduce or eliminate runoff.
A reduction in
runoff will affect the ability to irrigate
crops and will reduce summer stream flows necessary to keep dams and
reservoirs replenished, threatening hydroelectricity
glaciers are melting so fast that some are expected to disappear within
15-25 years, denying major cities water resources and putting
populations and food supplies at risk in Colombia, Peru, Chile,
Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia. Latin
Americans living in water-stressed watersheds (less than
1,000 m³/capita per year) in the absence of climate change were
estimated to number 22.2 million in 1995. This number is expected
to rise up to 79 to 178 million in the 2050’s.