How’s this for stunning proof of accelerated climate change? Scientists reported Thursday that thanks to a unique method of carbon dating, they’ve been able to determine that glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took over 1,600 years to form has melted in only 25 years.
How were they able to do this? As the ice retreated, it exposed plants previously frozen in place when the Quelccaya ice cap advanced thousands of years ago. Scientists were then able to take these plants and carbon date them. Those exposed near a meltwater lake that formed in 1985 at the edge of the glacier’s retreat were found to be about 4,700 years old. The latest collections in 2011 dated back about 6,300 years.
“The accelerating retreat of Quelccaya and other tropical ice fields is consistent with model predictions for vertical amplification of temperature in the tropics, and has serious implications for those living in these areas,” the paper reports.
According to the NY Times, those implications include a lack of glacial meltwater for communities that depend upon the runoff during dry seasons. The increased meltwater is also helping to fuel growth in major cities in the Andes – an unsustainable short term benefit that will collapse should the Quelccaya disappear.