Climate change threatens Mexico's glaciers

With the rise of temperature related to global warming, mountain tops no longer have the necessary conditions to regenerate glaciers

Mexico’s glaciers are threatened by climate change
Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl in 2014 – Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 15/11/2019 16:43 Newsroom Mexico City Actualizada 17:08

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The loss of glaciers is taking place not only in Mexico’s mountains but all over the world.

“There is an unprecedented melting of ice bodies, which implies that there is relevant warming in a global scale that is not natural but that is associated with human activity and the release of greenhouse gases,” alerts Hugo Delgado Granados, director of the Geophysics Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

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The only way of regenerating glaciers is for there to be the necessary conditions for it, that is, for there to be solid precipitation that is preserved for a year, which requires low temperatures, below zero degrees centigrade in the top of high mountains. Unfortunately, at this moment and the near future, these conditions are not expected to take place.

A dynamic system
Glaciers are a product from the climate and permanently exchange mass with other parts of the water system. Glaciers grow bigger with the addition of snow and other kinds of ice and lose mass through the melting of ice into water, evaporation, and the dislocation of ice floes.

One of the consequences of glacier extinction, alerted the researcher Delgado Granados, is that there will not be melting to supply water to the system not only to the surface but through the percolation of water to the underground water system.

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If glaciers completely disappear, water supply to these systems in drought season will end. In addition, should this happen, there could be a series of climate changes on mountain tops.

Glaciation in Mexico takes place because of the height of our mountains, which are over 5,000 meters high: Iztaccíhuatl with 5,240 meters, Popocatépetl with 5,420, and Citlaltépetl or Pico de Orizaba with 5,670 meters.

The presence of glaciers in mountains is due mainly to solid precipitation and its preservation during a year.

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In decline
Popocatépetl’s glaciers are extinct. Iztaccíhuatl’s are about to disappear, and the glacier of the Pico de Orizaba is significantly shrinking and will eventually vanish, although it will happen after those in Iztaccíhuatl, adds the UNAM vulcanologist.

These three mountains should have glaciers due to their height; however, in the case of Iztaccíhuatl, the environment temperature has increased because of global warming, which in turn has risen the height at which zero-degrees temperature prevails, with which water remains in its solid state.

All the ice bodies in that mountain, he concluded, are vulnerable to the rise of temperature and will eventually be affected by melting and, hence, will disappear.

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