January 24, 2013

Andes glacier melting threatens water for millions

Common Dreams - The great glaciers of South America are disappearing at rates never seen in modern times and the continent's fresh water supply is at serious risk if the trend continues, says a new study.

Climate change could melt the Andean glaciers away altogether in coming years, says the new study.

"Glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is unprecedented," said Antoine Rabatel, the lead author of the study.  "Because the maximum thickness of these small, low-altitude glaciers rarely exceeds 40 meters, with such an annual loss they will probably completely disappear within the coming decades," Rabatel added.

If that happens, warned scientists, millions of people who depend on the glaciers to feed mountain streams and replenish water reserves would be at catastrophic risk.

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