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Mexican glaciers at risk of extinction

In Mexico, the Popocatépetl glacier has already been declared extinct and the Iztaccíhuatl glacier has a few years left, according to expert
Mexican glaciers at risk of extinction
Photo: Courtesy
Mexico City
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Glaciers aren't produced by a machine and as global warming continues affecting the planet, there will be no way to stop glaciers from disappearing, warns Hugo Delgado Granados, director of the Geophysics Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

“To illustrate this better, disappearance of glaciers in Mexico happens due to the temperature increase in our country; the freezing temperature which allows ice to remain at the summits of our volcanoes will be surpassed and Mexican glaciers won't survive,” adds the expert, who is also the Mexican correspondent of the World Glacier Monitoring Service of the UNESCO.

“If glaciers retreat and they uncover the rock beneath, they no longer reflect heat, thus, the rocks absorb it and this changes the microclimate which, in turn, causes local temperature to increase,” explains Delgado.

Presently, the Mexican glacier which has already been declared extinct is the one found in the Popocatépetl volcano. "Despite ice bodies can still be seen in the summit, the ice has no more movement,” Delgado clarifies, revealing that the Iztaccihuatl volcano still has some ice bodies “in the belly and chest” but that it's highly probable that in 5 or 10 years, its glacier is also declared extinct.

“It's hard to give a specific date but if retreat patterns remain the same, the glacier will disappear,” the expert said.

Orizaba's Peak is different, it's located at a higher altitude and isn't surrounded by industrial areas unlike the Popocatépetl and the Iztaccíhuatl, which are next to Mexico City and Puebla,” adds Delgado, who claims that the altitude of this volcano, 5,570 meters above sea level, allows the glacier to keep “feeding” and, possibly, “survive one more decade.”

Glacier studies in Mexico and around the world began to be systematically collected in 1958 and in 60 years, climate conditions have changed to such an extent that several glaciers have melted worldwide.

One of the direst consequences of glacier disappearance is that water reserves will diminish, as in drier times glaciers melted and supplied rivers, lakes, and groundwater bodies. Without this water supply, there will be a negative impact on several populated areas in Mexico located near mountains.

While glacial retreat is, in itself, a natural phenomenon, climate change caused by human activities has accelerated the process, concluded the director of the Geophysics Institute of the UNAM.


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