According to a recent study in the scientific journal Cryosphere, glaciers in the tropical Andes are shrinking at the fastest rate in the past 300 years.
Since the 1970s, the glaciers in the South American mountain range have diminished by an average of 30-50 percent. The melting is caused by an increase in the region’s average temperature. From 1950-1994, it rose by 0.7 degrees Celsius.
The melting is most severe in small glaciers at low altitudes. Ice floes below 5,400 meters have lost approximately 1.35 meters of ice thickness per year since the 1970s—twice the rate of larger glaciers at higher altitudes—and scientists believe the small glaciers could disappear in the coming decades.
Without these fresh-water glaciers, the region could face water shortages in the future. The Santa River valley in Peru could be most affected; however larger cities such as La Paz, Bolivia, would also feel the strain.