A (Sad) Historical Event Just Occurred: Venezuela Became the First Andean Country to Have All Its Glaciers Melt Away 

A (Sad) Historical Event Just Occurred: Venezuela Became the First Andean Country to Have All Its Glaciers Melt Away 
By Hendrick Sanchez

Venezuela has become the first Andean country to lose all its glaciers. The last of its ice bodies, the Humboldt glacier — also known as La Corona — has now shrunk so significantly that it has been reclassified as an ice field. This marks a devastating end to the country’s once impressive array of glaciers. 

According to IFLS, Professor Julio Cesar Centeno from the University of the Andes (ULA) confirmed the grim reality in March, stating, “In Venezuela there are no more glaciers. What we have is a piece of ice that is 0.4 percent of its original size.” Once covering 4.5 square kilometers (1.7 square miles), La Corona now spans less than 0.02 square kilometers (2 hectares). For a piece of ice to be considered a glacier, it must extend over at least 0.1 square kilometers (10 hectares). 

As recently as 1910, Venezuela boasted six glaciers covering a total area of 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles). By 2011, five had disappeared, leaving only the Humboldt glacier clinging on in the Sierra Nevada National Park. However, recent observations indicate that this glacier has diminished drastically. 

La Corona in Venezuela Is No Longer with Us

Research conducted over the past half-decade highlights the rapid decline of Venezuela’s glaciers, with glacial coverage decreasing by 98 percent between 1953 and 2019. The rate of ice loss surged after 1998, peaking at around 17 percent per year from 2016 onwards. By 2015, La Corona was already on the verge of losing its glacier status, having shrunk to a mere fraction of its former size. 

In a desperate bid to preserve the Humboldt glacier, the Venezuelan government in December attempted to cover it with a geotextile blanket, hoping to insulate and protect the remaining ice. Unfortunately, this plan not only failed but also drew criticism from conservationists. Professor Centeno warned that the geotextile could break down into microplastics, potentially contaminating the ecosystem. “These microplastics are practically invisible, they end up in the soil and from there, they go to crops, lagoons, into the air, so people will end up eating and breathing that,” he told AFP. 

Venezuela’s glacier loss is a tragic chapter in the nation’s environmental history. The country once hosted cross-country skiing events as recently as the 1950s. Today, it stands as an example of the accelerating effects of climate change. 

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