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Small glaciers disappearing in the tropical Andes: a case-study in Bolivia: Glaciar Chacaltaya (16° S)

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Glaciar Chacaltaya is an easily accessible glacier located close to La Paz, Bolivia. Since 1991, information has been collected about the evolution of this glacier since the Little Ice Age, with a focus on the last six decades. The data considered in this study are monthly mass-balance measurements, yearly mappings of the surface topography and a map of the glacier bed given by ground-penetrating radar survey. A drastic shrinkage of ice has been observed since the early 1980s, with a mean deficit about 1m a-1 w.e. From 1992 to 1998, the glacier lost 40% of its average thickness and two-thirds of its total volume, and the surface area was reduced by >40%. With a mean estimated equilibrium-line altitude lying above its upper reach, the glacier has been continuously exposed to a dominant ablation on the whole surface area. If the recent climatic conditions continue, a complete extinction of this glacier in the next 15 years can be expected. Glaciar Chacaltaya is representative of the glaciers of the Bolivian eastern cordilleras, 80% of which are small glaciers (<0.5 km2). A probable extinction of these glaciers in the near future could seriously affect the hydrological regime and the water resources of the high-elevation basins.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2001

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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