Nevado del Tolima

years until
glacier vanishes

Nevado del Tolima’s glaciers are only 0.6 square kilometres in size (about the same size as the US Pentagon building) with losses in ice caused by rising temperatures and occurring at an accelerating rate since 1985. “If current rates continue, Colombia won’t have any glaciers left by 2035,” says Ricardo Lozano, head of the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM). Disappearance of glaciers would have disastrous effects on Colombia’s power network given that the country generates 73% of its electricity from hydro power, much of which is from Andean glacial melt. Faster-melting glaciers will provide a short-term injection of clean water into Colombian rivers, but in the long-term it will lead to water shortages. Colombia is also home to alpine grasslands called páramos that act like a giant sponge, holding and gradually releasing melt-water from glaciers. “If warmer temperatures continue, 56% of Colombia’s páramos will disappear by 2050, and 25% of the Colombian population depends on water resources from these páramos,” says Lozano.