The last glacier in Venezuela has melted—a lot faster than expected

In May, scientists found that Venezuela’s last glacier, the Humboldt Glacier, or La Corona, had melted much faster than expected. As a result, it has been downgraded from a glacier to a mere ice field.

“The loss of La Corona marks the loss of much more than the ice itself,” Caroline Clason, a glaciologist and assistant professor at Durham University, told The Guardian. “It also marks the loss of the many ecosystem services that glaciers provide, from unique microbial habitats to environments of significant cultural value. 

Of course, the loss is also a blow to hikers and winter sports enthusiasts who have long been fearing the onset of death knells for skiing. While Venezuela has been largely out of commission for tourism up until recently, glaciers facilitate hugely profitable tourist attractions worldwide, both for sightseeing and for adventure sports.

In response to the glacier’s loss, the Venezuelan government has covered La Corona’s remaining bits with a polypropylene thermal blanket, though it’s likely to be too little, too late. Venezuelan environmentalists, mountaineers, and residents of Mérida have petitioned against the thermal cover. They’re concerned that it’s both useless and presents a risk of microplastic contamination, according to Spanish newspaper, El Pais.

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