In Bolivia, A Major Glacier Disappears

Bolivia’s Chacaltaya glacier — an 18,000-year-old ice cap that once was the world’s highest ski resort — has melted entirely, according to Bolivian scientists. “Chacaltaya has disappeared,” said Dr. Edison Ramirez, head of an international team of scientists that has studied the glacier since 1991. “It no longer exists.” Located 17,388 feet above sea level, the glacier once served as the foundation of a ski resort that dated back to 1939 and attracted tens of thousands of visitors over the years; it was Bolivia’s only ski resort. As temperatures in the Andes have risen steadily in recent years, Ramirez and his team have documented the rapid retreat of Chacaltaya, which lost 80 percent of its mass since 1987. Ramirez predicted the glacier would disappear by 2015, but the rate of thawing increased threefold in the last decade, hastening the Chacaltaya’s demise. The loss of Chacaltaya is the latest sign that glaciers in the Andes are melting faster than earlier projections, threatening the drinking water supplies of 77 million people in the region. Most glaciers in the Andes could disappear in the next several decades, scientists predict.