Sudden Ban on Exploradores in Chile Over Climate Change Concerns

National Forestry Corporation of Chile has imposed a sudden hiking ban on Exploradores.

Chile’s National Forestry Corporation has decided to permanently ban hikers from the popular Exploradores glacier in Patagonia due to concerns about safety and rapid melting.

This decision has generated controversy among adventurers and local guides, as it has sparked a debate about the risks of ice-climbing in a changing climate. Government hydrologists conducted a two-week study and found that the glacier is approaching a dangerously unstable “inflection point.”

Chile’s National Forestry Corporation has permanently banned ice-hiking on the Exploradores Glacier in Patagonia due to evident risks and uncertainties regarding the glacier’s behavior and safety concerns for ecotourism activities. This decision reflects a global trend, as ice-climbers worldwide are facing challenges from the effects of warmer temperatures on familiar routes. For example, a large chunk of Italy’s Marmolada glacier collapsed, leading to fatalities, and agencies had to cancel ascents of Mont Blanc due to melting ice causing an increase in rockfalls during the same summer.

Local guides were surprised by the sudden overnight closure of the Exploradores Glacier.

The closure of the Explorers glacier followed a significant ice calving event on the main glacier. While no hikers were harmed, local guides considered it a normal part of glacier dynamics.

However, a government study indicates that such fragmentation will become more common. Drone images since 2020 show the glacier thinning by 1.5 feet (0.5m) per year, with a doubling of meltwater lagoons on its surface. Increased contact with water is accelerating the glacier’s melting process.

According to the report, the combination of glacier thinning and the increasing number of glacial lagoons is pushing the Exploradores glacier towards two potential outcomes. Either a massive ice calving event could occur, or the multitude of small lagoons could lead to the front of the glacier disintegrating. In either scenario, the report anticipates a rapid retreat of the Exploradores glacier due to accelerated melting.

While neither the report nor the closure notice explicitly mentions climate change, the report notes that the glacier remained relatively stable for nearly a century before undergoing rapid thinning in recent decades.

The pattern of rapid glacier thinning observed at the Exploradores glacier is in line with a global trend affecting glaciers worldwide, attributed to rising ocean temperatures driven by greenhouse gas emissions.

A recent study projected that two-thirds of the world’s glaciers will disappear by the end of the century, leading to a sea-level rise of 4.5 inches (11.4cm) and potentially displacing over 10 million people globally.

SOURCE: Sudden Ban on Exploradores in Chile Over Climate Change Concerns