The Andes Mountains, which draw skiers to South America, are facing historically low snowfall this year during a decade-long drought that scientists are linking to global warming.
Little rain and snow cover many of the majestic mountains between Ecuador and Argentina with patchy snow cover or no snow at all, as dry brown earth is exposed.
As precipitation decreases and glaciers retreat in the region, communities that depend on the mountains for water supply are likely to face shortages, said Ricardo Villalba, principal investigator of Argentina’s Institute of Snow, Glacier and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA). ).
“Here we see a process of long-term decline in precipitation, a megadrought,” Villalba said.
“Now if you look at the precipitation levels for the entire Cordillera (Andean Range), they show that it hasn’t snowed at all or snowed very little,” he said.
The Southern Hemisphere is experiencing winter, when snowfall should peak.
Ski resorts have reopened after lengthy closures during the pandemic, drawing skiers cheering to the Argentina-Chile border. But the sparse snowfall is forcing many resorts to move snow to cover popular slopes or create artificial snow.
Satellite images from July 2020 and this year show a clear decrease in snow cover. This is reflected in water level measurements for rivers.
The Andean glaciers, which stayed the same size or even grew between 2000-2010, are now retreating, Villalba said.
“The glaciers are in a very dramatic retreat process that is much faster than we have seen before,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this is happening in all the glaciers of the Cordillera and is strongly linked to global warming affecting the entire planet.”
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