Researcher: Glaciers in South America receding due to global warming

January 08, 2014

By YUMI NAKAYAMA/ Staff Writer

COYHAIQUE, Chile--Glaciers in Patagonia, a region at the southern tip of South America straddling Chile and Argentina, are continuing to shrink as a consequence of global warming, according to a Japanese researcher.

Masamu Aniya, 69, a professor emeritus at the University of Tsukuba, conducted an aerial survey of Patagonia in December. An Asahi Shimbun reporter accompanied the expedition.

"Glaciers serve as an indicator to grasp changes in the global environment," Aniya said. "We must keep monitoring them more closely than ever."

The study found that the tip of Colonia Glacier in Chile, one of about 80 glaciers in Patagonia, receded by about 2 kilometers, compared with 1983.

Aniya, an expert on natural geography, has been taking aerial photographs of 21 glaciers in the northern part of Patagonia every summer over the past 30 years to calculate changes in their sizes and lengths.

The image taken in November 1983 showed the tip of Colonia Glacier, which spread from behind snow-capped mountains, formed an enormous mass of ice downstream.

The image snapped in December showed the top was melted to form a lake, with a number of dark masses of floating ice in it. The waters of the lake were murky, with sediment collecting at the bottom.

Most of the 21 glaciers have shrunk, and some have been losing their ice masses at an accelerated pace since around 2000, according to Aniya.

San Quintin Glacier, the largest one in northern Patagonia, has shrunk sharply since 1985 and is 41 square kilometers, or 5.3 percent, smaller than in 1945. The tip of at least one glacier has receded more than six kilometers since 1945.

By YUMI NAKAYAMA/ Staff Writer
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Part of Colonia Glacier in Chile is melted into a lake with dark floating masses of ice visible in December 2013. (Yumi Nakayama)

Part of Colonia Glacier in Chile is melted into a lake with dark floating masses of ice visible in December 2013. (Yumi Nakayama)

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  • Part of Colonia Glacier in Chile is melted into a lake with dark floating masses of ice visible in December 2013. (Yumi Nakayama)
  • Colonia Glacier in Chile is a massive mass of ice extending downstream in November 1983. (Provided by Masamu Aniya)
  • Lakes are formed at the foot of glaciers on snow-capped Patagonian mountains in Chile in December 2013. (Yumi Nakayama)
  • The Asahi Shimbun

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