From McGill University , hmmm, where have we heard this water supply threat from receding mountain glaciers before? Children just aren’t going to know what glaciers are.
Glacial tap is open but the water will run dry
Retreating glaciers threaten water supplies
Glaciers are retreating at an unexpectedly fast rate according to research done in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca by McGill doctoral student Michel Baraer. They are currently shrinking by about one per cent a year, and that percentage is increasing steadily, according to his calculations.
But despite this accelerated glacial shrinking, for the first time, the volume of water draining from the glacier into the Rio Santa in Northern Peru has started to decrease significantly. Baraer, and collaborators Prof. Bryan Mark, at the Ohio State University, and Prof. Jeffrey McKenzie, at McGill, calculate that water levels during the dry season could decrease by as much as 30 per cent lower than they are currently. “When a glacier starts to retreat, at some point you reach a plateau and from this point onwards, you have a decrease in the discharge of melt water from the glacier,” explained Baraer.
“Where scientists once believed that they had 10 to 20 years to adapt to reduced runoff, that time is now up,” said Baraer. “For almost all the watersheds we have studied, we have good evidence that we have passed peak water.” This means that the millions of people in the region who depend on the water for electricity, agriculture and drinking water could soon face serious problems because of reduced water supplies.
Looks like we are dealing with another Lonnie Thompson clone. Here’s the handbill for a lecture on the topic, it seems this press release is a bit dated. From his Facebook page, it seems the dastardly connection to big oil is alive and well.
It’s so bad there, locals have taken to whitewashing the Andes:
Eduardo Gold is one of 26 people around the world to win the World Bank’s “100 Ideas to Save the Planet” contest and his dream is to bring back Peru’s glaciers from the effects of global warming. Mr. Gold is not a scientist — though some might think he’s a genius, others that he’s got a couple of screws loose — but he’s using the cash prize from the contest to whitewash three mountains just west of Ayacucho, Peru in hopes of bringing back melted glaciers that once hung there, high above the village of Licapa. In the past two weeks he and his team of four men have used a mixture of lime, egg whites and water to turn the Chalon Sombrero peak white. They’ve successfully whitewashed two hectares in the past two weeks and they’ve only got 68 more to go.
The USGS reports that it is a volatile area, so volatile in fact that large engineering projects have been put in place to mitigate aluviónes (glacial floods). Wikipedia has this entry:
During the dry season from June to November, the Santa River provides only a little water for irrigation, drinking water and hydroelectric power. A couple of water reservoirs have been established to control the fluctuation of the river. Upstream of the hydroelectric power plant of Huallanca, the Río Santa watershed covers an area of 4,900 km², downstream another 7,300 km².
I wonder how much effect these might have had? No mention in the McGill press release. Here’s USGS take on the area From Feb 1999. There’s no mention of “climate change”.
Since 1702, more than 22 catastrophic events have resulted from ice avalanches that have caused outburst floods from glacier lakes. The floods, known in Perú as aluviónes, come with little or no warning and are composed of liquid mud that generally transports large rock boulders and blocks of ice. The floods have destroyed a number of towns, and many lives have been lost (table 4). One of the hardest hit areas has been the Río Santa valley in northern Perú (fig. 11). Of these catastrophes, the most serious were the aluviónes that destroyed part of the city of Huaraz in 1725 and 1941, as well as the aluvión that resulted from the failure of Lago Jancarurish in 1950. In addition, two destructive, high-speed avalanches from the summit area of Huascarán Norte (6,655 m asl) in 1962 and 1970 destroyed several villages and caused the deaths of more than 25,000 inhabitants. Reports of these catastrophic glacier-related events include those by Morales Arnao, B., (1966, 1971), Chiglino (1950, 1971), Lliboutry (1975), Plafker and Ericksen (1978), and Hofmann and others (1983). Figures 6 and 12 give some idea of the effect of the Huascarán avalanches. Figure 13 shows the 1951 flood from Lago Artesoncocha into Lago Parón.
Figure 11.–The locations of the many natural disasters, glaciological in origin, that have caused deaths or property damage in the Río Santa valley of Perú since 1702. See table 4 for additional information.
Table 4.–Natural disasters in Perú that were glaciological in origin (see fig. 11)
|1||Blanca||Huaraz||Floods destroyed part of the city of Huaraz.||4 March 1702|
|2||Blanca||Huaraz||Earthquake, ice avalanche, and floods damaged the city of Huaraz. Approximately 1,500 people were reported missing; only 300 people were left alive.||6 January 1725|
|3||Blanca||Yungay||Avalanche from Nevados Huandoy. Floods destroyed the town of Ancash, and 1,500 people were reported to have perished. At the same time, an earthquake also took place.||6 January 1725|
|4||Blanca||Huaraz||Slides and floods affected the village of Monterrey, destroying houses and fields; 11 people missing.||10 February 1869|
|5||Blanca||Huaraz||Flood in the town of Macashca. Many people were reported to have died. Rajucolla levee was broken.||24 June 1883|
|6||Blanca||Yungay||Ice avalanche from Huascarán impacted Shacsha and Ranrahirca.||22 January 1917|
|7||Huayhuash||Bolognesi||Aluvión from Lago Solteracocha in the Pacllón basin.||14 March 1932|
|8||Blanca||Carhuaz||Aluvión from Lago Arteza (Pacliashcocha) into the Quebrada Ulta (Río Buin) near Carhuaz (Kinzl, 1940).||20 January 1938|
|9||Blanca||Pallasca||Aluvión from Lago Magistral affected the town of Conchucos.||1938|
|10||Huayhuash||Bolognesi||Aluvión from Lago Suerococha impacted Río Pativilca causing damage to agricultural fields and town of Sarapo.||20 April 1941|
|11||Blanca||Huaraz||Aluvión from Lago Palcacocha damaged the city of Huaraz. Approximately 5,000
people died. The new part of the city was destroyed.
|13 December 1941|
|12||Blanca||Huari||Aluvión from Lagos Ayhuinaraju and Carhuacocha caused by an ice avalanche from the Huantsan peak damaged the town of Chavín. Many people died.||17 January 1945|
|13||Blanca||Huaylas||Aluvión from Lago Jancarurish above the Los Cedros drainage basin. Destruction of the Central Hidroeléctrica del Cañón del Pato, the highway, and part of the railway from Chimbote to Huallanca.||20 October 1950|
|14||Blanca||Huaylas||Aluvión from Lago Artesoncocha into Lago Parón (two events).||16 June and 28 October 1951|
|15||Blanca||Huaraz||Aluvión from Lago Milluacochan into the Quebrada Ishinca drainage basin.||6 November 1952|
|16||Blanca||Huaraz||Slides and flood from Lago Tullparaju affected Huaraz city.||8 December 1959|
|17||Blanca||Yungay||Avalanches and aluviónes from Huascarán Norte. About 4,000 people died; 9 towns were destroyed, one of which was Ranrahirca (Dollfus and Peñaherrera del Aguila, 1962; Morales Arnao, 1962).||10 January 1962|
|18||Blanca||Huari||Ice avalanche from Nevado San Juan above Lago Tumarina (Quebrada Carhuascancha, Huantar District); 10 people died in Chavín.||19 December 1965|
|19||Blanca||Yungay||Rock and ice avalanche from Huascarán Norte severely affected the city of Yungay. Approximately 23,000 people died. The same day another avalanche took place between Lagunas Llanganuco.||31 May 1970|
|20||Blanca||Huaraz||Small avalanche from Tocllaraju near Paltay into Lago Milluacocha.||31 August 1982|
|21||Blanca||Yungay||Small ice avalanche from Huascarán Norte reached the Ranrahirca fan.||16 December 1987|
|22||Blanca||Yungay||Small ice avalanche from Huascarán Norte reached the Río Santa.||20 January 1989|
Figure 12.–Sketch map and profile of the area affected by the 1962 and 1970 aluviónes from Huascarán Norte in the Cordillera Blanca (modified from Plafker and Ericksen, 1978). See also figure 6.
Figure 13.–Flood from Lago Artesoncocha (1951) into Lago Parón in the Cordillera Blanca near Caraz.
These catastrophes influenced the Government of Perú to establish an Oficina de Obras Seguridad (Security Works Office) to prevent or mitigate avalanches and floods from glacial lakes. Several glacial lakes have been drained by using two traditional methods, the first by excavating a channel through the morainic dam and the second by building tunnels through the moraine. Where the first method is employed, a channel through the top of the moraine is gradually and carefully excavated so that the water behind the dam is allowed to drain safely through the channel and into the stream below. When the water is drained to the desired level, a permanent concrete drainage pipe is constructed within the moraine. Next, the moraine is rebuilt to its original level by using compacted earth, which is covered in turn by rock and concrete. The permanent outlet provides drainage and a normally low water level, whereas the dam provides protection in case of avalanches and floods. The second method digs or drills tunnels through the morainic dams or surrounding rock; the tunnels are left open to prevent the glacier lakes from forming in the future. In both methods, great care must be taken to prevent uncontrolled drainage of the lake because of the possibility of catastrophic flooding. Construction is difficult because most sites are situated at elevations of 4,000 m or higher.
The first method was used successfully on Lago Llaca and Lago Shallap above Huaraz and on Lago Hualcacocha above Carhuaz (figs. 3, 14). The second method was used on the moraines of Lago Tullparaju above Huaraz and Lago Safuna, northwest of Nevados Pucahirca, and in the drilling of the Parón Tunnel above Caraz through granitic rock 50 m below the water surface, as well as the tunnels on 513 lakes above Carhuaz (fig. 3).
After more than 30 years of continuous work, the program appears to be successful because no destructive floods resulting from the breakout of glacial lakes have occurred in the Cordillera Blanca since 1972.