Tag Archives: Water resources

Bolivian glaciers melt at alarming rate

glaciers

A new study mapping the effects of dwindling glaciers on people living in Bolivia reveals rapid shrinkage and potentially dangerous glacial lakes.

LONDON, 22 October, 2016 Between 1986 and 2014 – one human generation – the glaciers of Bolivia shrank by 43%, according to new research.

This presents a problem in the long term for more than 2 million people who rely on glacial meltwater supply in the dry season, and immediate danger in the short term for thousands who might live below precarious glacial lakes.

Glaciers are in retreat as the world warms − a consequence of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in response to the increasing combustion of fossil fuels.

They are dwindling almost everywhere in the Andean chain, in Greenland, in Alaska and Canada, the Himalayas, across the entire mass of Central Asia, and everywhere in the tropics.

Tropical glaciers

But a new study in The Cryosphere, the journal of the European Geosciences Union, is one of the first to examine in detail precisely what this retreat could mean for the human communities in Bolivia, home to one-fifth of the world’s tropical glaciers.

Researchers from two British universities and a Bolivian colleague examined NASA satellite images of the region and found that the area of the Bolivia Cordillera Oriental normally covered by glaciers fell from 530 square kilometres in 1986 to about 300 sq km in 2014 − a shrinkage of more than two-fifths.

They then turned to the glacial lakes − bodies of water left behind as a glacier retreats. Some are in natural dips in the bedrock, some are accidentally dammed behind walls of glacial debris.

All such lakes are precarious: rockfalls, earthquakes and avalanches can breach them or tip water from them to create a dangerous downstream flow.

We mapped hundreds of lakes,” says Simon Cook, senior lecturer in physical geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, who led the study.

Some lakes are very small and pose little risk. Others are very large, but there’s little or no possibility that they would drain catastrophically. Others are large enough to create a big flood, and sit beneath steep slopes or steep glaciers, and could be dangerous.”

Studies such as these are a demonstration that climate change is happening, and that science can deliver practical help to communities in the path of potential disaster or economic stress.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished
by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?”

Civil engineers, geographers, conservationists and hydraulic engineers are no longer simply warning about the hazards of climate change. They have begun to identify the communities most vulnerable to flooding, the hazards to local biodiversity as forests and grasslands begin to feel the heat, and the cities most at risk from routine coastal flooding as sea levels rise. and the US states that must start planning now for future power disruption as a consequence of drought.

Meltwater matters to mountain communities. It supplies the drive for hydroelectric power and it delivers clean drinking water to the cities and irrigation for crops in the dry season.

Reservoirs at risk

Through the year, the 2.3 million people in the Bolivian cities of La Paz and El Alto get 15% of their water from glacial supplies; in the dry season, this figure doubles. Glacial meltwater also keeps regional rivers and lakes topped up. So as the glaciers retreat and the body of surviving ice dwindles, some of these reservoirs, too, are at risk.

The researchers pinpointed 25 lakes as potentially dangerous. Even the smallest, were it to drain completely, would tip a peak flow of 600 cubic metres of water a second down the hillside. The largest could discharge 125,000 cubic metres − 50 times the volume of an Olympic swimming pool − every second.

A glacial lake outburst in 2009 killed farm animals, destroyed crops and washed away a road, leaving villagers isolated for months.

Dr Cook says: “We considered that a lake was dangerous if there were settlements or infrastructure down-valley from the lake, and if the slopes and glaciers around the lake were very steep, meaning that they could shed ice or snow or rock into the lake, which would cause it to overtop and generate a flood – a bit like jumping into a swimming pool, but on a much bigger scale.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?

Big cities like La Paz are partially dependent on meltwater from glaciers. But little is known about potential water resource stress in more remote areas. Much more work needs to be done on this issue.” Climate News Network

A new study mapping the effects of dwindling glaciers on people living in Bolivia reveals rapid shrinkage and potentially dangerous glacial lakes.

LONDON, 22 October, 2016 Between 1986 and 2014 – one human generation – the glaciers of Bolivia shrank by 43%, according to new research.

This presents a problem in the long term for more than 2 million people who rely on glacial meltwater supply in the dry season, and immediate danger in the short term for thousands who might live below precarious glacial lakes.

Glaciers are in retreat as the world warms − a consequence of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in response to the increasing combustion of fossil fuels.

They are dwindling almost everywhere in the Andean chain, in Greenland, in Alaska and Canada, the Himalayas, across the entire mass of Central Asia, and everywhere in the tropics.

Tropical glaciers

But a new study in The Cryosphere, the journal of the European Geosciences Union, is one of the first to examine in detail precisely what this retreat could mean for the human communities in Bolivia, home to one-fifth of the world’s tropical glaciers.

Researchers from two British universities and a Bolivian colleague examined NASA satellite images of the region and found that the area of the Bolivia Cordillera Oriental normally covered by glaciers fell from 530 square kilometres in 1986 to about 300 sq km in 2014 − a shrinkage of more than two-fifths.

They then turned to the glacial lakes − bodies of water left behind as a glacier retreats. Some are in natural dips in the bedrock, some are accidentally dammed behind walls of glacial debris.

All such lakes are precarious: rockfalls, earthquakes and avalanches can breach them or tip water from them to create a dangerous downstream flow.

We mapped hundreds of lakes,” says Simon Cook, senior lecturer in physical geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, who led the study.

Some lakes are very small and pose little risk. Others are very large, but there’s little or no possibility that they would drain catastrophically. Others are large enough to create a big flood, and sit beneath steep slopes or steep glaciers, and could be dangerous.”

Studies such as these are a demonstration that climate change is happening, and that science can deliver practical help to communities in the path of potential disaster or economic stress.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished
by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?”

Civil engineers, geographers, conservationists and hydraulic engineers are no longer simply warning about the hazards of climate change. They have begun to identify the communities most vulnerable to flooding, the hazards to local biodiversity as forests and grasslands begin to feel the heat, and the cities most at risk from routine coastal flooding as sea levels rise. and the US states that must start planning now for future power disruption as a consequence of drought.

Meltwater matters to mountain communities. It supplies the drive for hydroelectric power and it delivers clean drinking water to the cities and irrigation for crops in the dry season.

Reservoirs at risk

Through the year, the 2.3 million people in the Bolivian cities of La Paz and El Alto get 15% of their water from glacial supplies; in the dry season, this figure doubles. Glacial meltwater also keeps regional rivers and lakes topped up. So as the glaciers retreat and the body of surviving ice dwindles, some of these reservoirs, too, are at risk.

The researchers pinpointed 25 lakes as potentially dangerous. Even the smallest, were it to drain completely, would tip a peak flow of 600 cubic metres of water a second down the hillside. The largest could discharge 125,000 cubic metres − 50 times the volume of an Olympic swimming pool − every second.

A glacial lake outburst in 2009 killed farm animals, destroyed crops and washed away a road, leaving villagers isolated for months.

Dr Cook says: “We considered that a lake was dangerous if there were settlements or infrastructure down-valley from the lake, and if the slopes and glaciers around the lake were very steep, meaning that they could shed ice or snow or rock into the lake, which would cause it to overtop and generate a flood – a bit like jumping into a swimming pool, but on a much bigger scale.

Most glaciers will be gone or much diminished by the end of the century – so where will the water come from in the dry season?

Big cities like La Paz are partially dependent on meltwater from glaciers. But little is known about potential water resource stress in more remote areas. Much more work needs to be done on this issue.” Climate News Network

Caucasus Climate Causes Concern

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Kieran Cooke, one of our editors, is in Armenia in the Caucasus region, looking at how possible changes in climate will affect the small, landlocked nation. THE ARARAT VALLEY, ARMENIA, Friday, 20 June – It happened as Tigran Gasparian and his family were having lunch.  A massive black cloud turned day to night in minutes. Then the hail hammered on the roof. “It was deafening”, says Tigran.  “I’ve never seen anything like it. The winds swirled around – like a tornado.  It went on for 45 minutes. At the end the hail was falling in big pieces like bits of broken glass. We knew all our crops had been destroyed.” Farmers here have heard talk of climate change: many say the summers – when temperatures can reach near to 40C – are becoming hotter while winters are getting colder. “Maybe the climate is changing” says Anoosh, Gasparian’s wife. “Or maybe the hail was sent by God as punishment for the way our country is chopping down its forests and destroying its landscape.” Armenia, a small country in the South Caucasus region with a population of a little over three million, is highly dependent on its agriculture and is famous for its fruits and herbs.  Agriculture accounts for about 20% of gross domestic product.   Cut to shreds Most of the country’s 340,000 farms are relatively small with plots of one hectare or less: there is little spare cash to fall back on when crops fail. “Our apricots, peaches, watermelons, and tomatoes were cut to shreds ” says Tigran. “Usually we’d harvest about 35 tonnes of grapes – this year we’ll be lucky if we have 50 kilos.” The Gasparian land is in the Ararat Valley, about an hour and a half’s drive from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Sitting under the shade of cherry trees – a cuckoo calling in the distance and the snow capped peak of Mount Ararat in Turkey on the horizon – it is, in many ways, a perfect pastoral scene. But life here is tough. Produce has to be taken along badly potholed roads to the capital. Armenia, till 1991, was part of the old Soviet Union. For many farmers, adjusting to a market economy has not been easy. Many are leaving the land: both the Gasparian’s sons – now in their twenties – are going soon to jobs in Russia. “With our crops destroyed, there is nothing for us here” says one.   Changing weather There are often hailstorms in Armenia and throughout the rugged and mountainous Caucasus region but the ferocity of this one – happening in mid May when crops were just coming to life – was highly unusual. Armenia is a mountainous country with a generally arid climate and is judged to be particularly vulnerable to changes in climate.  Zaruhi Petrosyan is a meteorologist at Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. “Usually hailstorms last for only five or seven minutes” she says. “This was a very strange meteorological phenomenon. There are changing weather patterns in some regions but just how significant these are is difficult to estimate.” Mrs Petrosyan says while calculations are changing all the time, Armenia is likely to see temperatures rise by between one and four degrees centigrade by century’s end though average rainfall is likely to drop by six per cent. But international bodies predict a far greater degree of change. A report in 2009 by the Stockholm Environment Institute together with the United Nations Development Programme talked of “enormous” changes in Armenia’s climate over the next century, with likely increases in temperatures of 4.5 C in the lowlands and 7C in the highlands by 2100. Water supplies – already a serious problem in many areas – are likely to come under increased strain as rainfall decreases, said the report, causing agricultural production to fall by nearly 10%.   Money to Survive Vardan Hambardzumyan is president of the Armenian Federation of Agricultural Associations. “We are fully aware how climate change will affect agriculture” he says. “We have to safeguard our water and land resources: we have to protect our forests. Armenia plays a very small role in the problem of climate change – but that doesn’t mean we should be ignorant of its impacts.” Hambardzumyan says there’s a need to develop new seeds to resist rising temperatures and to use cattle better able to withstand the heat. “We also need innovative technology – and help from international organisations.” Meanwhile the farmers in the Ararat Valley who lost their crops due to the freak hailstorm are insisting that the government gives them financial support. “We don’t live in luxury” says one farmer. “All we’re asking for is money to survive through the year.” Another farmer points to one of his prize cherry trees:  “Usually I’d get a hundred kilos from this tree. My cherries were famous. People would queue up for them. This year I’ll maybe get a couple of buckets. The rest go to the pigs – and even they are fed up and don’t eat them.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Kieran Cooke, one of our editors, is in Armenia in the Caucasus region, looking at how possible changes in climate will affect the small, landlocked nation. THE ARARAT VALLEY, ARMENIA, Friday, 20 June – It happened as Tigran Gasparian and his family were having lunch.  A massive black cloud turned day to night in minutes. Then the hail hammered on the roof. “It was deafening”, says Tigran.  “I’ve never seen anything like it. The winds swirled around – like a tornado.  It went on for 45 minutes. At the end the hail was falling in big pieces like bits of broken glass. We knew all our crops had been destroyed.” Farmers here have heard talk of climate change: many say the summers – when temperatures can reach near to 40C – are becoming hotter while winters are getting colder. “Maybe the climate is changing” says Anoosh, Gasparian’s wife. “Or maybe the hail was sent by God as punishment for the way our country is chopping down its forests and destroying its landscape.” Armenia, a small country in the South Caucasus region with a population of a little over three million, is highly dependent on its agriculture and is famous for its fruits and herbs.  Agriculture accounts for about 20% of gross domestic product.   Cut to shreds Most of the country’s 340,000 farms are relatively small with plots of one hectare or less: there is little spare cash to fall back on when crops fail. “Our apricots, peaches, watermelons, and tomatoes were cut to shreds ” says Tigran. “Usually we’d harvest about 35 tonnes of grapes – this year we’ll be lucky if we have 50 kilos.” The Gasparian land is in the Ararat Valley, about an hour and a half’s drive from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Sitting under the shade of cherry trees – a cuckoo calling in the distance and the snow capped peak of Mount Ararat in Turkey on the horizon – it is, in many ways, a perfect pastoral scene. But life here is tough. Produce has to be taken along badly potholed roads to the capital. Armenia, till 1991, was part of the old Soviet Union. For many farmers, adjusting to a market economy has not been easy. Many are leaving the land: both the Gasparian’s sons – now in their twenties – are going soon to jobs in Russia. “With our crops destroyed, there is nothing for us here” says one.   Changing weather There are often hailstorms in Armenia and throughout the rugged and mountainous Caucasus region but the ferocity of this one – happening in mid May when crops were just coming to life – was highly unusual. Armenia is a mountainous country with a generally arid climate and is judged to be particularly vulnerable to changes in climate.  Zaruhi Petrosyan is a meteorologist at Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. “Usually hailstorms last for only five or seven minutes” she says. “This was a very strange meteorological phenomenon. There are changing weather patterns in some regions but just how significant these are is difficult to estimate.” Mrs Petrosyan says while calculations are changing all the time, Armenia is likely to see temperatures rise by between one and four degrees centigrade by century’s end though average rainfall is likely to drop by six per cent. But international bodies predict a far greater degree of change. A report in 2009 by the Stockholm Environment Institute together with the United Nations Development Programme talked of “enormous” changes in Armenia’s climate over the next century, with likely increases in temperatures of 4.5 C in the lowlands and 7C in the highlands by 2100. Water supplies – already a serious problem in many areas – are likely to come under increased strain as rainfall decreases, said the report, causing agricultural production to fall by nearly 10%.   Money to Survive Vardan Hambardzumyan is president of the Armenian Federation of Agricultural Associations. “We are fully aware how climate change will affect agriculture” he says. “We have to safeguard our water and land resources: we have to protect our forests. Armenia plays a very small role in the problem of climate change – but that doesn’t mean we should be ignorant of its impacts.” Hambardzumyan says there’s a need to develop new seeds to resist rising temperatures and to use cattle better able to withstand the heat. “We also need innovative technology – and help from international organisations.” Meanwhile the farmers in the Ararat Valley who lost their crops due to the freak hailstorm are insisting that the government gives them financial support. “We don’t live in luxury” says one farmer. “All we’re asking for is money to survive through the year.” Another farmer points to one of his prize cherry trees:  “Usually I’d get a hundred kilos from this tree. My cherries were famous. People would queue up for them. This year I’ll maybe get a couple of buckets. The rest go to the pigs – and even they are fed up and don’t eat them.” – Climate News Network