SANTIAGO – Chile’s glaciers have shrunk by 8 percent since 2014 due to climate change, figures released Thursday by the country’s General Directorate of Water Resources (DGA) showed.
The South American nation’s glaciers have gone from covering an area of 23,641 square kilometers five years ago to 21,647 square kilometers in 2019, said the head of the DGA, Oscar Cristi.
The reduction in mass translates to the disappearance of 1,894 square kilometers of glacier, a situation that Cristi considered bad news.
The data is a glimpse into a glacier inventory that the government of Chile is developing and planning to make available in the coming weeks.
Other preliminary data offered by Cristi was the increase in the number, a situation attributed to the breakup of larger glaciers.
“In 2014, 24,114 glaciers were recorded in Chile and five years later the amount rose to 25,725, an increase of 1,611 today,” he said.
The government has been debating the situation of Chile’s territorial glaciers for months.
But an opposition-driven project has come to a standstill due to the effects it could have on mining activities near the ice masses.
Regulations apply not only to the protection of the glaciers but also to the surrounding areas, where mining operations are set up and which might have to close if the project is approved.
Most of Chile’s glaciers are located in the Andes mountain range, with masses located in the highlands in the north and in Patagonia in the south.
The most significant glacier is the so-called Southern Patagonian Ice Field, shared with Argentina, covering an area of more than 14,000 square kilometers.