Glaciology

Melting glaciers 1850-2010

The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy contains the largest surface of ice and snow of all glaciated high mountain regions of Colombia. In 2010 a Rapid

Eye image established a remaining ice surface of 16 km2 in the high Cocuy Range with a mean thickness of 38 m of the Ritacuba Blanco glacier (IDEAM 2012).

Most snow, ice and glaciers are found on the western exposed dip slopes. The steep eastern exposed slopes do not accumulate as much snow, though here there is more snow deposition per surface area than on the dip slopes, west of the main divide.

During the last LGM the estimated snow and ice cover of the Cocuy extended to the South reaching the Tota lake area. At the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850 snow and ice covered (calculated) 148.7 km2.

From 2009 to 2010 the loss of snow and ice was 1.4 km2. This cover value is higher than in preceding years and was apparently caused by El Niño.

From 1986 onwards the glaciers of the Cocuy Range have been monitored, initially by IGAC and later by IDEAM experts. Between 1986 and 2010 there was a maximum retreat of 610 m at a mean velocity of 20-25 m/year (IDEAM 2012).

The continuing increase of global temperature that it is expected later in this century is likely to further melt away snow and ice leaving the summits of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy bare from ice and snow cover.

Melting of glaciers in the S.N. de Sta. Marta and S.N. del Cocuy, 1850-2010
table from  ‘Glaciares de Colombia’ (IDEAM, 2012)

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