At 5,634m, Nevado del Huila is Colombia’s highest volcano. Having been a benign, dormant presence for over 500 years, this giant awoke from its slumber and erupted once in 2007 and twice in 2008, causing over 12,000 people to be evacuated and leading to 10 deaths. The volcano continues to threaten new activity, with a total of 138 seismic events being recorded in a single week in 2013, for example. With the memory of the tragedy caused by Nevado del Ruiz’s 1985 eruption and ensuing lahar (mudslide caused by excessive glacial melt) still fresh in their minds, the local communities surrounding Nevado del Huila are on constant alert.
Like those of all the 25zero mountains, Nevado del Huila’s glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate due to climate change – between 1989 and 2005, it lost 56% of its glacier area, with an average annual retreat rate of 653,000 square metres, the largest areal extent shrinkage of all the Colombian peaks. Since 2006, the development of volcanic activity has served to speed up the glacier shrinkage already underway, as the temperature inside the volcano has risen. Nevado del Huila’s current activity combined with rising air temperatures and decreased precipitation caused by climate change pose a real threat to water supplies in the region, which rely heavily on the glacial melt-water.