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Andean glacier melting fast, threatens cities

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Andean glacial ice that took at least 1600 years to form has now melted in just 25 according to monitoring scientists. The researchers say a spike in global temperatures is to blame for the melting.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scientists studying the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, have found that the ice is melting at an astonishing rate. Researchers carbon dated plants that were being uncovered by the melting ice. The results say that at least 1600 years of accumulated ice has melted in just 25.

Researchers published their findings in the online journal, Science.

The Quelccaya  ice cap is melting at 18,000 feet and is the world's largest tropical glacier, although it is shrinking rapidly. As the glacier melted over the years, it exposed plants that were covered during its advance in previous millennia. Researchers carbon dated these plants and have learned the glacier is now smaller than it has ever been in the last five thousand years. Scientists expect that determination will advance further if melting continues.

The melting of the glacier is of deep concern to the region because many cities rely on its water to get through the tropical dry season. If the glacier continues to shrink, then seasonal drought will threaten municipal water supplies.

Of course, those communities are enjoying an abundance of water now the glacier is melting ever more rapidly, which is spurring growth and development. That rapid development will only exacerbate future water shortages. The cities of Lima and La Paz among those  endangered because of glacial melting.

The preponderance of evidence now suggests that the climate is changing for the warmer, as the satellite images and photographs reveal quite starkly the level of ice loss around the globe. Sea levels are also rising forcing the relocation of some populations and other measures.

Even many climate change skeptics concede that the planet is warming, although they say the level of harm may be overstated or that it does not justify the proposed measures to abate human emissions. The primary cause of the warming is also hotly debated.

Catholic Online will be presenting added content including an interview with a well-known skeptic, highlighting both sides of the global warming discussion in the next week as part of its continuing coverage of the issue.

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