Chilean Patagonia

The melting of the Patagonian glaciers accelerated between 2011 and 2017

Good examples are the Jorge Montt glacier, which decreased about 2.5 gigatons a year, retreating 2.5 kilometers and the Uppsala, which drains into a lake and lost 2.68 gigatons of ice a year.

May, 2018

Retreat of glaciers in Patagonia, Chile.
Photo: Instituto Antartico Chileno
   The decline in the volume of ice of the glaciers of Patagonia, which are the ones that suffer most from this process due to global warming, accelerated between 2011 and 2017, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

In that period, the Patagonian ice fields lost a mass of 21 gigatons a year, which is equivalent to an elevation of the sea level of 0.06 millimeters and represented an increase of 24% with respect to what was found between 2000 and 2014, ESA said in a release.

These calculations derive from a new way of processing the data obtained by the CryoSat satellite, which examines glaciers in detail by scanning the entire surface.

"Thanks to CryoSat we have discovered that between 2011 and 2017 the decrease in thickness was widespread, especially in the north of the ice fields," said Luca Foresta, one of the researchers at the University of Edinburgh who has worked on this innovative technique.
Very representative in this regard were the Jorge Montt glacier, which reaches the Ocean, decreased by about 2.5 gigatons a year and retreated 2.5 kilometers and the Upsala glacier, which drains into a lake and lost 2.68 gigatons of ice a year.

On the contrary, the Pío XI glacier - the largest in South America -, increased its volume by 0.67 gigatons a year.


   ESA, which remembers that all the glaciers of the Earth are in decline and that during the last 15 years their thaw has been the main responsible for the rise in sea level, explains that this is happening more quickly in Patagonia for two reasons:

First because the weather there is "relatively mild" and then because the glaciers usually flow into fjords and lakes, which accelerates the thawing and causes them to drain faster and reduce the ice mass in the form of icebergs on its margins.