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Scientists seek answers to Bolivian glacier melt

Saturday, May 26, 2012 - 02:59

May 27 - After inconclusive preliminary negotiations in Bonn, hopes for a globally binding climate deal by 2015 are fading, but for scientists the research and data-collection continues. An international team in Bolivia is now focusing on sub-tropical glaciers to find out why they are melting even faster than experts had previously thought.

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TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~** PART NBC. PART NO ACCESS CNN/AOL/YAHOO/ARIZONA MARKET WEB SITES Bolivia's glaciers are melting - much faster than first predicted. This is where the Chacaltaya glacier used to be, in the Cordillera Real Mountains. Studies conducted in the 1990s forecast the glacier's disappearance by 2015 But it happened much sooner. By 2009, the 18,000-year-old glacier had melted away. Back then, global warming was being blamed, but now scientists like Franceso Zaratti from the Higher University of San Andres, suggest another cause. SOUNDBITE: DIRECTOR OF THE ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICS LAB AT THE HIGHER UNIVERSITY OF SAN ANDRES, FRANCESO ZARATTI, SAYING (Spanish): "The phenomenon that we believe contributes more and that we are going to measure, is airborne aerosol particles that deposit on the glaciers and in turn increase their capacity to absorb energy and solar radiation." Most atmospheric aerosol particles are produced by natural processes like volcanic eruptions and forest fires. But others are man-made through industry, mass transportation and agriculture. Scientists at the Chacaltaya astrophysical observatory are measuring airborne contaminants from smog from the cities of La Paz and El Alto below, as well as smoke from fires as far away as Argentina. The station is one of only eight in the southern hemisphere and part of a network including more than 65 countries. And researchers like Fernando Velarde hope the unique positioning of the observatory will help them find out why previous forecasts were so far off the mark. SOUNDBITE: FERNANDO VELARDE, RESEARCHER AT THE ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICS LAB AT THE HIGHER UNIVERSITY OF SAN ANDRES SAYING (Spanish): "The most attractive thing of Chacaltaya is the altitude; I mean we're at 5,200 meters (17,000 feet). At this altitude we are at what is believed to be a free and clean atmosphere." Other existing glaciers in the area provide water for millions in La Paz and El Alto. They're expected to disappear between 2035 and 2045. But physicists say that for future planning to be effective, accurate predictions are crucial. SOUNDBITE: DIRECTOR OF THE ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICS LAB AT THE HIGHER UNIVERSITY OF SAN ANDRES, FRANCESO ZARATTI, SAYING (Spanish): "To make weather forecasts 30 years out, not tomorrow's weather forecast, but global studies important for adaptation work in the future, we need to have good data from the get go. That is why we use a meteorological station, very precise instruments for carbon dioxide [and] superficial ozone." The scientists here hope to show that aerosol particles are settling in the glaciers, increasing their capacity to absorb energy and solar radiation which in turn, causes the glaciers to melt faster. By sharing this information they hope to provide answers to similar questions being posed by scientists around the world. Tara Cleary, Reuters.

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Scientists seek answers to Bolivian glacier melt

Saturday, May 26, 2012 - 02:59