Last Glacier Standing in Venezuela

In 1910, glaciers covered at least 4 square miles (10 square
km) of the mountainous region of northwestern Venezuela. Today, less than one
percent of that ice remains, and all of it is locked up in one glacier. The
ongoing retreat of Humboldt Glacier—Venezuela’s last patch of perennial
ice—means that the country could soon be glacier-free.


The glacier is in the highest part of the Andes Mountains,
on a slope at nearly 16,000 feet. A cold
and snowy climate at high elevations is key for glaciers to exist in the
tropics. Most of Earth’s tropical glaciers are found in the Andes, which runs
through Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. But warming air temperatures
have contributed to their decline, including Humboldt Glacier.

The relatively recent changes to Humboldt are evident in
these images, acquired on Jan. 20, 1988, by the
United States Geological Survey’s Landsat 5
and on Jan. 6, 2015,
by Landsat 8. The images are false-color to better differentiate between areas
of snow and ice (blue), land (brown) and vegetation (green).

Scientists are trying to understand how long Humboldt will remain.
One said: “Let’s call it no more than 10 to 20 years.”

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