Water Supply Threatened By Global Warming
South American countries may face drought conditions in the near future…and it has happened before
After a southerly migration of westerly winds, around 15,000 years ago, the ice field had suddenly contracted. The reconstruction of past changes in the Central and Northern part of the ice field revealed these facts. South America's Patagonian Ice Field plays a vital role in the hydrology of the entire region. Under a warming climate westerly wind shifting will be observed again in modern times.
Dr Chris Fogwill, with University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre says, "We found that precipitation brought to this region by Southern Hemisphere westerlies played an important role in the glaciations of the North Patagonian Ice Fields. Our research has shown this ice-field significantly reduced in size when those winds moved southwards." The North Patagonian Ice field, in particular, is critical to sustain seasonal water storage capacity for Chile and Argentina. "Worryingly, this study suggests the region may well be on a trajectory of irreversible change, which will have profound impacts on agriculture and the increasing dependency on hydroelectric power in Chile and Argentina," Fogwill said.
By using rare isotopes to measure changes in the ice-sheet thickness since the last major glaciations, the team revealed a decline in the ice-sheet between 15,000 to 19,000 years ago as well as the significance of the winds on the ice-sheets and resulting water supply. They were then able to determine, using a separate collection of ocean cores, that the decline correspond with the southward movement of the westerlies. Coupled with additional warming, this caused by rapid loss of ice and a large reduction in glacial mass without seasonal recovery. "The ice-field in the Northern and Central region of the Patagonian ice-field are highly sensitive to precipitation and need this to remain healthy," Dr Fogwill concluded.
About Dr. David Pulman
David Pulman (http://www.forbes.com/profile/david-pulman/) is the GSK President of Global Manufacturing and Supply, Corporate Council Chair for the Children’s Health Fund, Newcastle alum, botany enthusiast and a proud dad & husband.
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