Did you know the impacts of climate change on Patagonia’s glaciers are intensifying as we begin 2019? In November 2018, an unusually large, house-sized iceberg measuring 350 by 380 meters (1,150 by 1,250 feet) split off from the Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine National Park making world news. Not long after, a tragic mudslide on Chile’s Carretera Austral occurred at Villa Santa Lucia, left 18 people dead and destroyed more than two dozen homes. The cause? At least in part, melting glaciers in the mountain above the town.
Scientists say Patagonia’s glaciers are shrinking at a proportionally faster rate and at higher altitudes than anywhere else in the world. Research data in the Patagonian ice fields show that from 2000 to 2012 the rate of thinning was more than double what it was from 1975-2000 and the trend only continues. Altogether, Patagonia’s two ice fields account for about 10 percent of the total sea-level rise caused worldwide by mountain glaciers. “Patagonia is kind of a poster child for rapidly changing glacier systems,” says Cornell University researcher Michael Willis, lead author of a study in 2012 that states the Patagonian icefields are supplying water to sea-level at a comparatively high rate for their size and conclude “the ice fields are undergoing rapid drawdown.”
Timothy Poulton: Photos