Researchers are racing to determine how shrinking glaciers in the Andes will affect the water supply of millions of people.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists is now trying to provide some answers through a US$1-million project funded by the US National Science Foundation. The crew, which pulls together hydrologists, geochemists, geographers and historians, mainly from the United States and Canada, is tracking the fate of glacial meltwater as it runs from the mountains down to the ocean.
Their goal is to develop models to forecast water flow and its effects on residents downstream. The rapid changes in the Andes “warrant a new kind of interdisciplinary, integrated study”, says geographer Bryan Mark of Ohio State University in Columbus, who is one of the principal investigators of the project. “We're trying to cross traditional boundaries, so we're not studying water separately from people.”