Record high temperatures across the globe are threatening two tropical glaciers in Indonesia, the Guardian reports.
As Scienceline explained, tropical glaciers exist in areas near Earth’s equator that would typically be too hot for ice to stay year-round. Because it’s colder at higher elevations, glaciers can remain on top of high mountains. The Eternity Glaciers are on the Jayawijaya mountains, found in the eastern Papua region of Indonesia.
Although the weather there is cold, it’s warmer than it used to be. The Guardian reports that between 2010 and 2021, the glaciers thinned from about 105 feet thick to just over 26 feet, a 75% reduction in depth. Also, between 2000 and 2022, they went from about 1.5 miles long to 755 feet, over a 90% reduction in length. In other words, during the last two decades, most of the ice has melted away.
Now, experts worry the glaciers could disappear entirely. Donaldi Permana, a climate researcher from Indonesia’s geophysics agency, told the Guardian, “The glaciers might vanish before 2026 or even faster, and El Niño could accelerate the melting process.”
El Niño is a recurring period when the world gets slightly hotter on average due to shifts in the ocean’s surface temperatures. Now, that effect is being compounded because the planet’s temperature is rising. The world has been getting hotter for decades because of human-made air pollution that traps heat inside the atmosphere. The two phenomena together are expected to bring about the hottest five years ever.
Because of the heat, the Guardian explained that rain has been falling on the Eternity Glaciers instead of snow. Snow can accumulate on the glacier, helping to replenish it, but rain washes away part of the ice and makes it melt faster.
Once the Eternity Glaciers vanish, they probably won’t be coming back. As Scienceline pointed out, glaciers are often irreplaceable freshwater sources for the surrounding ecosystem, so their loss could be devastating to people and wildlife alike. Permana also told the Guardian that it would contribute to the rising global sea level. “At least we can tell future generations that we used to have glaciers,” he concluded.
Indonesia has a goal to either eliminate or make up for all the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas it produces by 2060, the Guardian revealed. It is one of many countries trying to stop the world from overheating before the damage is irreversible.
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