Story

The Andes’ Melting Glaciers

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Antisana from base camp. Image by Simeon Tegel. Ecuador, 2012.

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Wind sweeps over Antisana's main peak. Image by Simeon Tegel. Ecuador, 2012.

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The rock field left bare by Antisana's retreating glacier. Image by Simeon Tegel. Ecuador, 2012.

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Antisana’s main glacier in June 1994. Image courtesy of Bernard Francou, Institute de Recherche pour la Developpement, France.

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The same glacier in February 2010. The snout now sits about 300 meters (roughly 1,000 feet) higher. Image courtesy of Bernard Francou, Institute de Recherche pour la Developpement, France.

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Mountain guide Ignacio Espinosa inspects a stream cutting across the glacier's surface. Image by Simeon Tegel. Ecuador, 2012.

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This alpine lake and rock field were recently also covered by Antisana's main glacier. Image by Simeon Tegel. Ecuador, 2012.

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These streams on the glacier surface are not abnormal, although the volume of water they are carrying may be. Image by Simeon Tegel. Ecuador, 2012.

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Students Jean Carlos Ruiz and Dennise Sosa measure the glacier's thickness. Image by Simeon Tegel. Ecuador, 2012.

Like the Arctic, the High Andes are one of the natural environments where the early impacts of climate change are most clearly visible. Home to the vast majority of the world’s tropical glaciers, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru have seen roughly half of their ice cover disappear in the last three or four decades. More will be lost as the snowline is expected to rise by roughly 200 meters (650 feet) for every 1°C temperature increase. Antisana, Ecuador’s fourth highest mountain, helps supply Quito with water and has been particularly badly hit.