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Bolivian scientists to track glacial changes at high speed with new equipment

Scientists in Bolivia are hoping to track glacial changes at lightning speed.

New scientific equipment being installed at the country’s Huayna Potosi mountain peak will provide real-time measurements of glaciers’ mass compared to much slower older methods.

Edson Ramirez, a glaciologist at Bolivia’s Higher University of San Andres, said the equipment could make hourly measurements of glacial mass compared to classic glacialogy methods capable of monthly or yearly readings.

“This time we are doing it in a very short time and in real time,” Ramirez said.

The measurements could help measure melting rates or how much life is still left for a glacier, he added.

Glaciers play a significant role in water supply across the Andes mountain range, with studies showing they provide around 27% of the water in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real region in the dry season.

Extreme weather events like heat waves and droughts have stressed water supplies throughout South America, making more accurate glacier measurements a critical tool.

“You can’t take measures or prepare yourself for the future if you don’t know where you are,” said Gerd Dercon, head of the soil, water management and crop nutrition laboratory at the joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

Dercon said the measurements would help create a baseline.

“From that baseline you can take actions,” he said, such as improving reservoir capacity, adjusting the course of water or building more reservoirs.

(Reuters)

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