Science/Tech

Andean Peak Becomes Unrecognizable Due To Global Warming

Although it’s not a well-known fact by many, tropical mountains are one of the most ideal places to see how climate change is affecting our planet, though it’s an idea that we wouldn’t recommend.

This idea is made prominent by famed German naturalist and geographer Alexander von Humboldt, who back in 1802, climbed Chimborazo, a 6,268-meter-high volcano in Ecuador, then thought to be the world's highest mountain. After a chasm that pushed those to give up the climb and go back down, Humboldt later sketched a diagram that illustrated how climate is one important principle when it comes to organizing life.

Calling it his Tableau Physique, Humboldt’s phenomenal diagram now serves as an intellectual framework for scientists in understanding how life is transformed by human-driven climate change, something that can be observed in the same mountain/stratovolcano that inspired Humboldt to make it in the first place: the Chimborazo.

How Climate Change Is Transforming Our Environment

Previously, Humboldt wrote about tropical mountains in his essay: “On this steep surface climbing from the ocean level to the perpetual snows, various climates follow one another and are superimposed, so to speak." However, those climates are now quickly getting reshuffled because of global warming.

For example, the plants that were illustrated by Humboldt to be below are now quickly migrating upwards due to rising temperatures. Furthermore, the shifting vegetation combined with retreating glaciers is also altering the flow of water from the mountains down the communities below that need it to live.

Research made throughout the years has also revealed that Chimborazo’s ice is quickly succumbing. In fact, since the 1980s, the mountain’s glaciers have lost around 20 percent of their surface area, with people living in the communities bearing witness to how the mountain’s once icy peaks are now nothing but rocks. This has made the mountain more dangerous to climb. Furthermore, flooding is now also prominent, caused by meltwater that accumulated at the foot of the glaciers.

Per experts, the story of melting glaciers due to global warming is pretty common around the globe, illustrating just how fast the changing climate is influencing our planet, for better or for worse.

mountain A remote, mountainous landscape like this is where many explorers have fallen victim to hypothermia. Shaylor (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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