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Predicted climate change impacts on permafrost in the Central Andes

Permafrost, or frozen ground, forms at high altitudes and, like glaciers, is sensitive to temperature changes. Warming, glacier retreat and permafrost thawing destabilise mountain slopes. The extent of permafrost in the Andes has not been extensively studied, which makes it difficult to predict the implications of thawing on communities and the environment. Active rock glaciers indicate the presence of permafrost and are the visual expression of permafrost creep (Barsch, 1996). The structure of rock glaciers makes them more resilient to warming than glaciers and as the climate warms they are expected to be an increasingly important contributor to river and stream flow. Rock glaciers are actually more abundant than glaciers in the central part of the Andes (Jones et al., 2018). However, Rangecroft et al. (2016) looked at the current extent and future projections for the fate of permafrost and active rock glaciers in the Bolivian Andes. They found the projected warming would result in the loss of 95 per cent of the current permafrost in Bolivia by 2050 and 99 per cent by 2099 (Rangecroft et al., 2016). These predictions include the loss of almost all of the Bolivian rock glaciers by 2099, resulting in a significant impact on water security in the country.

Year: 2019

From collection: The Andean Glacier and Water Atlas

Cartographer: Riccardo Pravettoni

Tags: Andes Atlas

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