State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Some Thoughts about Glaciers Before Heading Home

The Perito Moreno glacier is constantly groaning and cracking as it calves off tiny chunks of itself. Credit: Ale Borunda.

Mike and I head out today for Cerro Gorra, leaving Jay and Barbara at Lago Cardiel to finish the stratigraphy. What wonderful people; I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do field work with them.
We drive to Lago Argentino, where Mike is meeting a new research team for a separate project. We have just enough time to stop at the Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. The only glaciers I’ve seen before have been quiet and still but this one cracks and grumbles as we watch. The sound of breaking ice echoes through the valley; the noise seems outsized for the quantity of ice.

The weather has cleared, opening a view of the Southern Patagonian ice field between the peaks. Credit: Ale Borunda

I still can’t imagine how ice like this once coursed through valleys to blanket huge parts of Patagonia. The glacier I’m looking at is enormous; a tourist boat near its base looks like a wind-up-toy. I’m trying to comprehend how much snow would be needed to make this glacier grow thicker and hundreds of miles longer. It’s a lot easier to understand how a glacier can grind up mountains to make dust.
Anyway, I’m back in Rio Gallegos safe and sound. Tomorrow I return our rental car and get back on a plane for Buenos Aires and then New York. Mike has our samples in a bag; he’s going to FedEx them back to the States in a cardboard box. Hopefully they’ll arrive intact. This has been an incredible field experience, and I’m incredibly thankful to Gisela and Mike for arranging the trip. I hope we get some good data!

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