Last Glacier Gone?

( – Venezuela just scored a huge environmental milestone for all the wrong reasons, as the country just lost its last glacier due to rapid melting.

This development makes Venezuela seemingly the first nation in modern times to lose all its glaciers.

Once known as the Humboldt glacier and located near Pico Humboldt, this glacier has now been reclassified as an ice field because it no longer meets the size criteria for glaciers.

The Humboldt glacier is located in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida mountain range and is approximately 5,000 meters above sea level.

This was the last of Venezuela’s original six glaciers, as the other five had vanished by 2011.

Although there were projections that the Humboldt glacier would survive another decade, Venezuela’s political instability prevented consistent scientific monitoring.

Climatologist Maximiliano Herrera highlighted that while other countries have lost glaciers in the past, Venezuela’s situation is unique to modern times.

He also noted that countries like Indonesia, Mexico and Slovenia are likely next to lose their glaciers, especially with recent record-high temperatures speeding up glacier retreat.

Ecologist Luis Daniel Llambi confirmed that his team observed the glacier had shrunk significantly from 4 hectares in 2019 to less than 2 hectares during a recent expedition in December 2023. He explained that the glacier no longer has an accumulation zone and is just eroding.

The current El Niño climate event has caused the huge reduction in the glacier’s size. EL Niño raises global temperatures and rushes the disappearance of tropical glaciers.

Herrera also mentioned notable temperature anomalies in the region higher than historical averages.

Llambi stated he was concerned that Venezuela’s loss of glaciers foreshadows similar outcomes in other Andean nations like Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

Despite the Venezuelan government’s efforts to install a thermal blanket to slow the melting process, experts like Durham University glaciologist Caroline Clason argue that such measures are largely symbolic and useless.

“The biggest impact for me of the disappearance of glaciers is cultural,” Llambi expressed. “Glaciers were a part of the region’s cultural identity, and for the mountaineering and touristic activities.”

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