Scientists solve puzzle of Chile's missing lake

SANTIAGO Wed Jul 4, 2007 11:37am EDT

A handout photograph taken on July 2, 2007 and released by the Chilean Navy shows an unnamed lake located between the Tempanos and Bernardo glaciers that had suddenly drained a few weeks ago but is now beginning to fill up again, on the border of the Aisen and Magallanes provinces of southern Chile. A scientific team discovered that the lake had misteriously disappeared, believed to have drained towards the Pacific Ocean when a breach appeared in one of its natural containing walls, but that it began to fill up again as winter sets in and the glaciers' edges have frozen solid. REUTERS/Armada de Chile/Handout

A handout photograph taken on July 2, 2007 and released by the Chilean Navy shows an unnamed lake located between the Tempanos and Bernardo glaciers that had suddenly drained a few weeks ago but is now beginning to fill up again, on the border of the Aisen and Magallanes provinces of southern Chile. A scientific team discovered that the lake had misteriously disappeared, believed to have drained towards the Pacific Ocean when a breach appeared in one of its natural containing walls, but that it began to fill up again as winter sets in and the glaciers' edges have frozen solid.

Credit: Reuters/Armada de Chile/Handout

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Scientists said that a lake in southern Chile that mysteriously disappeared last month developed a crack which allowed the water to drain away.

A buildup of water opened a crack in an ice wall along one side of the lake. Water flowed through the crack into a nearby fjord and from there into the sea, leaving behind a dry lake-bed littered with icebergs, scientists told Chilean state television on Tuesday.

"It looks like it's slowly filling up with water again," said Andres Rivera, a glacier expert who headed a team which recently flew over the lake in a bid to solve the mystery.

The lake is situated in the Magallanes region in Patagonia and is fed by melt-water from glaciers. Earlier this year it had a surface area of 4 to 5 hectares (10-12 acres) -- about the size of 10 soccer fields.

Scientists noticed it had disappeared during a routine patrol of the area in May.

Rivera said the incident was evidence of the effects of global warming.

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