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Mexican glaciers

Not everyone knows, but Mexico has about two dozen glaciers, all located in the country’s three highest mountains. The last ice age ended about 10 thousand years ago, and it was then that the Mexican glaciers appeared.

A glacier is a massive ice formation formed by the accumulation of snow over a long period. When snow exceeds the amount of melting, the lower layers of snow are tightly compressed, forming significant masses of ice.

Glaciers currently cover more than 10 million square kilometers of the Earth’s surface, with most of them concentrated near the polar regions and others scattered throughout high mountain ranges and volcano peaks.

Talking about glaciers, we usually mean snow that is so compacted that it contains no air. To survive as ice, it requires certain temperature conditions, which can vary depending on the altitude and location where it is found.

The job of glaciers is to regulate temperature. The white color of glaciers causes the sun’s rays to be reflected rather than absorbed by the ground, which brings warmth, and when glaciers melt, the water feeds aquifers.

When the melting exceeds the ice regeneration, the frozen landscapes disappear.

In Mexico, the conditions for the formation of a glacier occur on three peaks:

  • Iztaccíhuatl – at 5240 m
  • Popocatepetl – at 5420 m
  • Pico de Orizaba – at 5670 m

Actually, there are 5 glacial zones in the dormant volcanic mountain Iztaccihuatl. Previously, there were 11 glacial zones, but over time they disappeared due to nearby industrial zones approaching this mountainous area.

The famous Popocatépetl, known to locals as Don Goyo, has been left without a glacier since the 1994 eruption as volcanic material and ash caused constant snow melt and the glacier eventually disappeared by 2001.

The most abundant glacier in Mexico is called Jamapa, one of 5 that once housed the volcano today known as Pico de Orizaba. This glacier is also estimated to be in danger of disappearing within the next 20 or 30 years.

Glaciers in Mexico are in the process of disappearing if not taken care of.


Disappearing glaciers of Mexico

Mexico is witnessing the gradual disappearance of glaciers, a phenomenon that has been linked to global warming. Currently, only five glaciers remain, located on two mountains: Iztaccihuatl and Pico de Orizaba.

According to experts, these ice giants are expected to disappear by 2050.

The Ayoloco Glacier on Iztaccihuatl was once 200 meters thick and was a powerful force shaping the landscape. In 2018, due to climate change caused by human activity, it retreated, leaving behind deep traces.

Iztaccihuatl, Mexico’s third-highest peak, has lost 95% of its glacier mass over the past 170 years. Currently, there are 3 small glaciers there: Pecho, Panza, and Suroriental, occupying an area of only 0.2 sq km.

Pico de Orizaba, the country’s highest mountain, once had 4 glaciers, but now there are only 2glaciers left, and even those are shrinking. Geologists predict that Mexico will lose its last glaciers by 2050.

The consequences of melting glaciers go beyond climate change.

These glaciers were vital sources of water, especially during the dry season. Their disappearance contributes to water stress in a country that is experiencing population growth and rising temperatures.

About 5% of the region’s water comes from glaciers, and the loss of this resource further complicates water availability.

The disappearance of Mexico’s glaciers is irreversible, but efforts to slow the process are critical. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saving water, preventing deforestation, and promoting environmental education are important steps.

The environment is changing, and humanity’s survival depends on its protection.

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