Amazon forest fires could make glaciers melt faster in the Andes
Drifting black carbon from rainforest fires could hasten the melting of tropical glaciers
SOUTH AMERICA — The fires burning in the Amazon rainforests are accelerating the melting of Andean glaciers, according to a study Nature published on November 28.
Brazilian scientists at the Rio de Janeiro State University report that smoke from the fires are carrying black carbon as far as the Zongo Glacier in Bolivia.
The study focused on the Zongo Glacier between 2007 and 2010, when more fires occurred in the rainforests than normally seen.
The researchers said satellite LiDAR imagery confirm black carbon particles are carried to and deposited on the Zongo, or at an altitude between three and five kilometers.
Lead researcher Dr. de Magalhães Neto talking to the BBC said that the black carbon then darkens glacial ice and snow.
The research team said that tropical glaciers supply water to millions of people in South America.
According to the paper, snow and ice infused with black carbon is less able to deflect sunlight, resulting in a significantly higher rate of melting.
Dr. Magalhães Neto tells the BBC that forest fires in Bolivia, Peru and Brazil may have vast social implications for the continent, as glacier loss could lead to a water crisis.
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