Patagonian Ice Caps: 40 Times Larger Than European Alps and Vulnerable to Climate Change

The ice caps of Patagonia are thinning by one meter annually

The Patagonian ice caps, located in Argentina and Chile, are the largest in the southern hemisphere after Antarctica, covering about 16 thousand square kilometers. Despite their size, they are relatively unknown. Recent research has reevaluated the volume of these ice caps using geophysical remote sensing methods and satellite imagery. A study published in the journal ‘Communications Earth & Environment’ by the ‘Nature’ group found that the ice caps are 40 times larger than all the glaciers in the European Alps and highly vulnerable to climate change.

Led by Johannes Furst from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, an international research group estimated that the Patagonian ice caps contain 5,351 cubic kilometers of ice as of the year 2000. Some glaciers in the area reach thicknesses of 1,400 meters. The study revealed that glaciers in the eastern part of the ice cap have significantly retreated in recent years while others have remained stable. Factors like lake basin depth influence the rate of glacier melt and retreat with faster retreat occurring in deeper basins.

Glaciers in Patagonia have faster sliding speeds compared to those in the European Alps, with some reaching several kilometers per year. This rapid ice loss averaging one meter per year has significant impacts on water resources and ecosystems in these regions. Concerns are also rising due to increased extreme weather events risks arising from this rapid melting process which underscores

Sophia Reynolds

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