Seasonal things come and go, so winter’s ski weather gives way to summer’s beach weather. We store our seasonal stuff because we know that we’ll get to go skiing again next winter. Thanks to climate change, this could be one of the last chances to see one of the few remaining tropical glaciers in the world, Pastoruri Glacier.
A couple of months ago, I came across this story in Perú, home of the only tropical glaciers in the world. In fact, thanks to the geographical location of the country, Perú has some of the most varied terrain and climate zones in the world. Just 700 miles south of the equator, but rising above 17,000 feet, Pastoruri Glacier is within hours of both equatorial jungle and sunny beaches, as well as everything in between. Thousands of tourists, hikers, rock climbers, ice climbers, and snowboarders have been visiting Pastoruri Glacier over the years, but climate change is destroying the attraction.
Over the last thirty years or so, Pastoruri Glacier has lost some 15% of its ice mass. Actually, the problem is worse than that. Climate change or global warming has really annulled Pastoruri’s status as a glacier, since it no longer increases mass in the winter, which would force it to flow down the mountain. The valley approach to the glacier is now by bus, grasslands and rocky outcroppings which, thirty years ago, would have been covered by ice and snow. Pastoruri is essentially a leftover ice block, melting away every summer.
On my visit to Pastoruri, last week, it snowed. The snow melted on contact with the bare ground, turning everything into black mud. If climate change continues on the same path, which has been irrevocably set by world industrialization, starting a couple hundred years ago, then it is expected that Pastoruri Glacier, as well as some 700 other retreating tropical glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca, will disappear in about ten years. In other words, by the time my daughter is old enough to enjoy it, it will be gone.
Reflecting this coming change, local tour guides are erecting more permanent structures for the last hurrah for Pastoruri Glacier visitors. When the ice is gone, what will they do then?
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