Global warming shrinks sacred glacier in the Andes
July 6, 2005
The melting of a glacier in the Peruvian Andes due to global climate change is impacting the religious practices of local people, according to an article run last month in The Wall Street Journal.
In the June 17, 2005 article, Antonio Regalado reports that an annual Catholic pilgrimage where blocks of ice are cut from the Qolqepunku Glacier has been restricted due to the shrinking size of the glacier. The pilgrimage, known as El Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i, usually draws about 40,000 worshipers to the 16,000 foot elevation glacier. The edge of the glacier has retreated 600 feet in the past two decades, something which is of particular concern for locals who subscribe to a local myth that holds when the snow disappears from the mountain tops, it will herald the end of the world.
According to a 1997 study by the Peruvian government, the harbinger of the end of the world to these Quechua indians may be coming soon. Already the country’s glaciers have shrunk by more than 20% in the past 30 years and the National Commission on Climate Change in Lima projects that Peru will lose all its glaciers below 18,000 feet in elevation in the next decade and possibly all its glaciers within the next 40 years.
While scientists do not believe that climate change will bring the apocalypse, many believe that it will have a significant impact on the world’s weather patterns. It is likely that people living in extreme environments like the Andes and the Arctic will be the first to see the impacts of climate change as evidence from past climate shifts have shown rapid swings in local temperatures and precipitation patterns in such regions. Ice core studies in Greenland have found 18 degree F (10 degrees Celsius) changes within a decade. Such wild fluctuations could result in rapid melting of glaciers and ice in some areas.
This article used information from The Wall Street Journal, specifically:
The Ukukus Wonder Why a Sacred Glacier Melts in Peru’s Andes
It Could Portend World’s End, So Mountain Worshipers Are Stewarding the Ice
By ANTONIO REGALADO
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
June 17, 2005; Page A1