The Chilean San Rafael Glacier: Proof Enough?

SGE.SRX50.091107052744.photo00.quicklook.default-163x245 “How can we stop this,” asked German visitor Herman Kirst, aged 70, as he watched the Chilean San Rafael glacier recently. He was watching it deposit chunks of glacial ice in to the water around it. Already the glacier has shrunk 100 meters this year. In reality, San Rafael has shrunk a total of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) since 1871.

30,000 years old, melting at an alarming rate, Captain Luis Kochifas has been ferrying tourists to and from San Rafael since 1978.

I wanted to take a moment today, in a smaller piece, to just focus on at least one example of global warming. Without rehashing my previous post, I think that the evidence really does speak for itself. And as I’ve said before, whether man has caused it or not, it does not matter, man must fix it.

Chilean scientists attribute global warming to the damage done to the glacier, lying 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of Santiago. And though it makes for spectacular viewing and YouTube videos, the crashing glacial chunks are a reminder of what is happening.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is visiting Chile next week as part of tour of the region to investigate the effects of global warming, but the real story lies with those who have watched the glacier die. Kochifas and his crew have been navigating through to within 500 meters of the glacier, an imposing wall of ice that sits at two kilometers across.

They want to make this an issue, and to show the world what is happening. “We don’t want the tourists only to see how beautiful the glacier is, but to also to be aware of how it’s shrinking”, the captain told AFP.

Tangible evidence exists as well, to the retreat of this mountain of ice; a reminder of millennia gone by. Markers that Kochifas and his crew have placed on the neighboring mountains, mark where the glacier used to be. There are markers for years 1978, 1982, 1985, 1989 and 2000.

“San Rafael glacier is in tune with the majority of Chile’s glaciers that are also undergoing a process of retreat,” Valdivia city’s Scientific Research Center glaciologist Andres Rivera told AFP. He continued adding that the Chilean glaciers “are not in balance with current climatic conditions.” They can’t make up for the lost ice that keeps falling off – known as calfing – for the same reason that it is falling off; it is too warm.

The San Rafael is not a scientific cooperative glacier either, with no one really sure at what point it steps off the lagoon and begins its retreat in to the surrounding Andes.

“It’s not easy to make a model on the future of this glacier, or determine when it will stop calfing icebergs,” he said. “But if current climate conditions and warming trend continue, it’s quite likely this and other glaciers in the Campo de Hielo Norte region will continue to retreat.”

There is only one way to sum up this article, and Mr. Kirst – the German tourist – did it best; “How sad, how devastating it is to think that all this, one day, could disappear.”

AP via PhysOrg – Chile’s San Rafael glacier fast disappearing

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