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Frontiers of Earth Science

Front. Earth Sci.    2019, Vol. 13 Issue (2) : 422-429
The 2015/16 El Niño-related glacier changes in the tropical Andes
Bijeesh Kozhikkodan VEETTIL1,2(), Jefferson Cardia SIMÕES3
1. Department for Management of Science and Technology Development, Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
2. Faculty of Environment and Labour Safety, Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
3. Centro Polar e Climático, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), CEP, 91501-970 Porto Alegre, Brazil
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Significant changes in the area and snowline altitude of two glacierized mountains – Nevado Champara (Cordillera Blanca, Peru) and Cerro Tilata (Cordillera Real, Bolivia) – in the tropical Andes, before and after the recent El Niño in 2015/16 period, have been analysed using Sentinel 2A and Landsat data. It is seen that the recent El Niño has been accompanied by higher fluctuation in glacier coverage on Nevado Champara and the loss of glacier coverage on Cerro Tilata was very high during the past 16 years. Rise in snowline altitude of selected glaciers was very high after the 2015/16 El Niño. Increase in the area covered by snow and ice during the La Niña periods were not enough to cover the ice loss occurred during the previous El Niño events and the strongest El Niño in 2015/16 was followed by a significant loss of ice-covered areas in the tropical Andes. Freshwater resources in this region will be affected in the near future if the current trends in glacier decline continue. Adaptation strategies needs to be implemented to reduce the impacts of the continuing loss of glacierized on regional communities in the tropical Andean region.

Keywords ENSO      tropical Andes      glacier loss      snowline altitude      Sentinel 2A     
Corresponding Authors: Bijeesh Kozhikkodan VEETTIL   
Just Accepted Date: 10 January 2019   Online First Date: 28 February 2019    Issue Date: 16 May 2019
 Cite this article:   
Bijeesh Kozhikkodan VEETTIL,Jefferson Cardia SIMÕES. The 2015/16 El Niño-related glacier changes in the tropical Andes[J]. Front. Earth Sci., 2019, 13(2): 422-429.
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Bijeesh Kozhikkodan VEETTIL
Jefferson Cardia SIMÕES
Fig.1  (a) Glacierized areas of the outer tropics; (b) glacierized peaks considered for this study (glaciers shown within the red polygon were considered to estimate snowline altitudes).
Item Weak Moderate Strong Very strong
El Niño 2004–2005 2002–2003 2015–2016
2006–2007 2009–2010
La Niña 2005–2006 2011–2012 2007–2008
2008–2009 2010–2011
Tab.1  Occurrences of El Niño and La Niña since for the period between May 2001 and October 2017 based on the running 3-month mean SST anomaly for the Niño 3.4 region (5°N–5°S, 120°W–170°W). El Niño (or La Niña) is defined as 5 consecutive overlapping 3-month periods at or above+0.5° (or –0.5°). Classification: weak (±0.5° to±0.9°), moderate (±1.0° to±1.4°), strong (±1.5° to±1.9°) and very strong (≥2.0°)
Fig.2  Changes in snowline altitude since 2002.
Fig.3  Changes in glacier area since 2002.
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