Viral video shows calving glacier crashing down in a tourist spot
Tourists got quite a scare from the sudden sideshow Mother Nature provided this week, but scientists are quick to note a disturbing pattern has started to emerge.
“Abnormally” high temperatures and recent heavy rainfall led to the partial collapse of this glacier in Queulat National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile on Sept. 9.
A dramatic video that went viral this week captured the moment a huge jagged chunk of melting glacial ice came crashing down in the Patagonia mountains of Chile as awestruck tourists looked on.
Visitors to Queulat National Park on Monday could hear rumbling from atop a mountain, some 656 feet up, before the hanging chunk of the glacier is seen shearing off, plunging into a deep gorge below. Footage of the loud collapse was taken by a tourist who was standing on a cliff far across from the glacier at the time. Witnesses screaming in amazement can be heard as can the sounds of cameras clicking away. No one was reported injured as the incident unfolded, according to officials.
The park, located about 700 miles south of the Chilean capital of Santiago, is known for its Enchanted Forest and many stunning glacier sightings.
Chilean scientists said rising temperatures and heavy rainfall caused the unexpected glacier calving. A plume of warm, tropical moisture known as an “atmospheric river” that typically generates rain in a narrow swath, helped to weaken the glacial ice walls.
When this "river meets with Andean and Patagonian topography, it forms large clouds and discharges precipitation,” Raul Cordero, a climate scientist with the University of Santiago, told Reuters.
According to Cordero, there was a heat wave with "very abnormal" temperatures in that area of Patagonia before the collapse. This past week the region saw temperatures reach into the upper 40s and mid-50s, according to AccuWeather data.
But what some scientists are finding most disturbing is the frequency of such “detachments” of glacial masses.
"Because this type of event is triggered by heat waves or by intense liquid precipitation events and both things are also happening more and more frequently throughout the planet, not only in Chile," Cordero said.
He and other experts point to climate change and its continual impact.
"One of the consequences of global warming is that it is destabilizing several glaciers and in particular some unstable glacier walls," said Cordero. "That is the case of what happened in the last few days in Patagonia in a similar way to what happened a couple of months ago in both the Himalayas and the Alps."
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