|Asia Glacier, Chile, April 6, 2019|
Nearly 400 billion tons of ice break away from the world's glaciers every year, one symptom of the earth warming due to humanity pouring pollutants into the atmosphere.
Or so scientists say. I can't vouch for the entire figure. But I can attest to 1,000 tons or so of glacier loss, the ice mass that broke off the Asia Glacier in Southern Chile on April 6.
I am certain of that because I was standing uncomfortably close when it happened and saw it: a wide swath of the blue ice face, maybe 150 feet top to bottom and 50 feet across, explode away in a cloud of ice crystals.
"Up! Up! Quickly!" cried a scientist off the Resolute, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society vessel that had brought us to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
I turned and, as suggested by informed scientific opinion, ran for my life, scrambling back up the slick, steep rocky outcropping.
It's surprising how even the most cynical fellow can instantly follow the advice of climate science under certain circumstances. It helped that I also saw the big swell of gelid water, studded with chunks of ice the size of refrigerators, push away from the collapsed mass of glacier, rolling directly toward us, fast.
We had all been observing the glacier from the relative safety of a promontory. Arriving an hour earlier from the ship by Zodiac boat, a sturdy black inflatable craft, as part of a two-week expedition up the Chilean coast, we gingerly worked our way up the stone face and found comfortable vantage points.
I had been talking with Ian Goodwin, a climatologist from Australia, who explained that symptoms of climate change in the more temperate regions of the world can be less pronounced than at the pole.
"Down here in Patagonia, and the Antarctic peninsula, Southern Australia, South Africa, these are the areas where climate change is being amplified, at the Southern ends of the Tropics," he said. "We might be seeing something less than a degree in the equatorial regions, but down here we're seeing 2 1/2, 3 degrees of warming and major shifts...the changes we're seeing here, these are massive retreats."
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|Climatologist Ian Goodwin before the Asia Glacier, April 6, 2019|