A historical review of glacier fluctuation in Colombia leads to the conclusion that here, as in many places around the world, deglaciation is the rule. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta lost at least one-third of its snow- and ice-covered area in the 34 years between 1939 and 1973, and several former glaciers have vanished during this century. In the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, where actual figures are available, an average retreat of 1.6 m a-1 has been computed from Ancízar (1853) and Kraus and Van der Hammen (1959, 1960) during a period of slightly more than 100 years. A similar figure would probably be valid for the Ruiz-Tolima massif, where the snow- and ice-covered area is now reduced to one-third of its 1845 extent. If the Reiss and Stübel (1892) and Ingeominas (1984) figures on the Nevado del Huila are correct, glacier recession there averages more than 8 m a-1. Should the present trend continue, the 104 km2 of snowfields and glaciers estimated for Colombia in the early 1970's will vanish in the not too distant future.


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U.S. Geological Survey, U.S.Department of the Interior
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Contact: Richard S. Williams, Jr., and Jane G. Ferrigno
Last modified 01.24.99