Planning Meetings to Focus on Water Management in the Andean Region

The objective of a series of workshops on the Andean region is to generate learning, synergies, and develop inputs for the promotion of multipurpose projects (PMP) at the local-regional level that integrate management of water resources and risk management in a context of climate change. The workshops, titled “Exchange of experiences to promote multipurpose water projects as a measure of adaptation to climate change and risk management in mountain areas,” are organized by the Glaciers Project +.

Officials from Chile, Colombia, and Peru who work on issues related to climate change, energy, and water will meet to identify conditions for scaling up PMPs in the Andean Region and other territories. The workshops are expected to generate a roadmap for regional exchange on the PMPs.

Among the topics to be discussed during the two days of the workshops will be the problem of water in the Andean region, which will focus on the consensual construction of the multipurpose approach to adaptation to climate change, management of water resources and disaster risk in the framework of the NDCs. Discussions will also occur focusing on implementing PMP initiatives.

The workshops will be held in the cities of Bogotá and Santiago, the first of which will be held on April 9 and 10 in the Council Room of the Faculty of Rural and Environmental Studies of the Pontifical Javieriana University in Colombia. The workshop in Santiago will be held on May 2 and 3 at the facilities of the National Irrigation Commission.

This article originally appeared in Spanish on El Proyecto Glaciares.

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Colombia May Lose All of Its Glaciers in Next Thirty Years

Colombia’s six remaining glaciers are likely to vanish in thirty years if current melting rates persist, says a recent study conducted by Colombia’s Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales (IDEAM). Currently, all six glaciers lie on the peaks in the Los Nevados National Park. Each year, about three to five percent of the ice-covered area is lost.

Research Shows High Rates of Glacier Loss in Colombia

According to a paper published in 2017, satellite images have estimated that Colombia’s overall glacier extent is only 42 square kilometers. This is a 36 percent decrease compared to the mid-1990s.

Different textures of glaciers found in Colombia on GlacierHub Different textures of glaciers found in Colombia (Source: IDEAM).

 

“Every glacier worldwide is facing this dilemma,” Ómar Franco, the director of IDEAM, told the local press during a briefing. Franco attributes the melting to the changing El Niño weather pattern, reports The City Paper, a local newspaper. Between 2015 and 2016, severe drought impacted the country, and limited precipitation hindered glacier growth during the winter months.

While an average increase of 2 degrees Celsius is expected worldwide, it could be twice as serious in the Latin American countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. These countries are home to 99 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers. When an El Niño occurs, temperatures could increase by up to 8 degrees Celsius, with extremely low monthly precipitation of only 7mm.

However, not all of the glaciers will melt at the same rate. Their microclimate varies and is dependent on the glacier’s distance from urban centers and the presence of tourism activities including hiking. The presence of human activities on glaciers erodes their delicate structures, for example. Thus, glaciers on Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Nevado del Cocuy could potentially have a longer lifespan, as they are relatively pristine. The last to go will probably be the largest and most extensive Sierra Nevada El Cocuy glacier.

Military Involvement in Data Collection

Decreasing Rates of Colombia’ six glaciers from 1960 to 2017 on GlacierHub
Decreasing Rates of Colombia’ six glaciers from 1960 to 2017 (Source: IDEAM)

Given these somber predictions, the government of Colombia is paying close attention to the issue, especially with the end of the Columbian armed conflict that took place from 1964 to 2017. Absent war against the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the military can now focus its efforts on other issues such as glacier monitoring. The Colombian Air Force that for decades flew over the country in search of guerrillas, drug traffickers and paramilitaries now uses its technology to monitor the frozen surfaces of the country. The latest findings in the IDEAM study are based on the data collected by the Air Force.

An Official Comments on Global Political Issues

“We call on countries that are big emitters of greenhouse gases to live up to their commitments,” Luis Gilberto Murillo, the Colombian Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, announced after the IDEAM briefing on the study. Colombia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 were estimated to be only 0.37 percent of global emissions, but the glaciers and environment could still suffer tremendously.

This draws back to the north-south divide on environmental issues, with themes of responsibility, compensation and carbon emission cuts being sources of contention between the developed and developing world.

Previously, Glacierhub reported that Venezuela is losing its last glacier. Will this be the future of Colombia’s glaciers too?

Photo Friday: The Melting Andean Glaciers

In South America, the tropical glaciers of the Andes have been shrinking at an alarming rate, leaving the local communities at risk of losing an important water source. In Bolivia, for example, an Andean glacier known as the Chacaltaya Glacier disappeared completely in 2009, cutting off a valuable water resource to the nearby city of La Paz during the dry season.

In total, the Andes Mountains are home to nearly 99 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers, with 71 percent located in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca and 20 percent in Bolivia, according to UNEP. Other tropical glaciers are found in the equatorial mountain ranges of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Over the past 30 years, scientists estimate that the glaciers of the tropical Andes have shrunk by 30 to 50 percent. This rate of decline predicts that within 10 to 15 years many of the smaller tropical glaciers will have completely disappeared.

Take a look at GlacierHub’s collection of images of the rapidly retreating Andean glaciers.

 

The Chacaltaya glacier in Bolivia disappeared completely in 2009. 350.org climate activists visited the area in 2009 to raise awareness (Source: 350.org/Flickr).
After the Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia disappeared completely in 2009, 350.org climate activists visited the area to raise awareness about climate change (Source: 350.org/Flickr).

 

 

Laguna Glacier in Bolivia's Cordillera Real mountain range (Source: Alma Apatrida/Flckr).
Laguna Glacier in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountain range (Source: Alma Apatrida/Flckr).

 

 

The Antisana glaciers which are experiencing retreat, according to UNEP (Source: Sid Ansari/Flickr).
The Antisana glaciers in Ecuador are experiencing rapid retreat (Source: Sid Ansari/Flickr).

 

 

The Llaca Glacier of Peru (Source: dmitriylit/Creative Commons).
The Llaca Glacier of Peru (Source: dmitriylit/Creative Commons).

 

 

Looking up the Pacific coast of South America at the snow-covered Andes Mountains, which contains the world's largest glaciated area of the tropics (Source: Stuart Rankin/Flickr).
Looking up the Pacific coast of South America at the snow-covered Andes Mountains, the world’s largest glaciated area of the tropics (Source: Stuart Rankin/Flickr).

 

 

Quelccaya Glacier located in the Cordillera Blancas (Source: Edubucher/Creative Commons)
Quelccaya Glacier located in Peru, where glaciers have retreated by over 20 percent since 1978, according to scienceline.org (Source: Edubucher/Creative Commons).

 

 

Nevado Coropuna, Peru from the NASA International Space Station, 10/06/10 (Source: NASA/Flickr).
Nevado Coropuna, Peru, from the NASA International Space Station, 10/06/10 (Source: NASA/Flickr).

 

 

View of Nevado del Huila in Colombia. Four of Colombia's six glaciers are found on volcanos, (Source: Joz3.69/Flickr).
View of Nevado del Huila in Colombia. Only six glaciers remain in Colombia and four are found on volcanos (Source: Joz3.69/Flickr).

 

 

Photo Friday: Volcanic Readiness in Colombia

The Volcanic and Seismological Observatory of Manizales has recently conducted several workshops on volcanic risk with communities in the vicinity of Nevado del Ruiz, a glacier-covered volcano in Colombia that showed signs of renewed activity earlier this year.

The workshops prepare communities to react to volcanic hazards like ash and lahars, the latter of which can occur when lava flow mixes with the icy temperatures of glaciers. Locals participate in focus groups and model experiments to better understand the volcanic risks in their community.

“Communication Strategy of Volcanic Risks,” is enacted in conjunction with the Colombian Geological Service, the National Unity of Disaster Risk Management, and other regional and municipal agencies. Check out some photos of the workshop, courtesy of the Observatory, below.

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Click here to “like” the Observatory’s Facebook page and to see more photos of the project.

 

Renewed Activity at Colombian Volcano Raises Concern

Ash eruption from VOlcan del Ruiz, 27 June 2016 (source:ExtraHuila/Twitter)
Ash eruption from Volcan del Ruiz, 27 June 2016 (Source: ExtraHuila/Twitter)

The glacier-covered Volcan del Ruiz in Colombia has shown signs of renewed activity in the last several days, following a shallow earthquake of 3.0 on the Richter scale on June 22, associated with fracturing of rock within the volcano. The Colombian Geological Service recognized this fracturing as a sign of possible movements of magma that could lead to an eruption of lava. Tom Pfeiffer, a German volcanologist, suggested that the earthquake was “possibly caused by increased magma pressure inside the volcano’s upper storage system.”

Earlier this week, on June 27, the volcano released an ash cloud, reaching 1,800 meters above the summit. A second emission on June 28 attained a height of 850 meters. Its volume was sufficient to threaten aircraft in the region, which led to the sudden closure of the regional airport in Manizales, 25 kilometers to the northwest.

One local resident released alerts on Twitter, directing people to close windows and to wear face masks as protection against the ash. In a second tweet, included below, she indicated that the warning level had been raised from yellow to orange, “alerta naranja,” though official sources in the Colombian Geological Service and the regional Risk Management Unit wrote to assure the public that the warning level remained at yellow.

On its Facebook page, the regional Volcanic and Seismological Observatory released a video of the most recent eruption, taken on its webcam:

As GlacerHub explained in a recent post, the presence of glaciers on the volcano’s summit creates the risk of destructive debris flows known as lahars. The very rapid melting of ice caused by contact with molten lava can cause floods to rush down the mountain’s slopes, carrying large quantities of ash, rock and soil to populated areas. An eruption of the volcano in 1985 led to over 23,000 deaths.

Ashcloud from Volcan del Ruiz. 28 June 2016 (source:OVSM)
Ashcloud from Volcan del Ruiz. 28 June 2016 (Source: OVSM)

The Colombian authorities and local citizens are monitoring this situation closely. If an eruption is likely, the municipalities in the region will receive warnings. GlacierHub will report on any significant intensification of the volcano’s activity.

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 “The cave systems have been mapped and surveyed since 2011 by Brent McGregor and Eddy Cartaya of the Oregon High Desert Grotto and in that time they have discovered more than a mile of caves and passages beneath the Sandy Glacier.”

A team from Uncage the Soul Productions shot “Requiem of Ice” in two caves named Pure Imagination and Snow Dragon, demonstrating the effect of the changing landscape.

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