Mountain range glaciers in Indonesia melting so fast they could disappear in 10 years

Glaciers that previously covered 20 square kilometres have shrunk to less than half a square kilometre.

Ashley Tan| December 14, 12:38 PM

The effects of climate change have once again manifested themselves -- this time in melting glaciers.

While you might have expected the glaciers to be in some far-flung country like Iceland, these glaciers actually exist in Indonesia.

And they are melting rapidly.

Shrunk by 85 per cent

The tiny glaciers on the Puncak Jaya mountain range (also known as Carstensz Pyramid) in Papua province, Indonesia, will be one of the "first to go" as a result of the world's warming climate, said American paleoclimatologist Lonnie Thompson.

Scientists have estimated they have roughly a decade or less to go before they are completely melted, reported the Jakarta Post.

These tropical glaciers are located at a lower elevation, around 4,884m above sea level, and are generally smaller than the large ice sheets in colder countries.

Photo from Magiwau / Getty Images

And for the past few years, the rate at which Indonesia's glaciers have been thinning have increased by five times.

As a result, the glaciers that previously covered 20 square kilometres have shrunk to less than half a square kilometre.

Pictorial evidence

Earlier estimates stated that the glaciers have shrunk by 85 per cent in the past few decades.

Here are images captured by NASA of the extent of glacial retreat.

This was taken in 1936.

Photo from NASA

And this in 2005.

Photo from NASA

"The situation has reached worrying levels because ice formation is no longer happening—only glacier recession," said Indonesia-based glaciologist Donaldi Permana to the Jakarta Post.

Glaciers are 'canaries in the coal mine'

These glaciers have been described as the "canaries in the coal mine" as they are the most affected by climate change, and are a key marker of its impact.

This is because the glaciers are smaller, and thus their response time to variations in the climate is faster.

The melting has also reportedly been exacerbated by the El Nino phenomenon, a period of warming that occurs every few years and results in reduced rainfall.

Not only are the glaciers an impressive feat of nature, they represent an important cultural symbol to indigenous Papuans as well.

Permana said that solutions to mitigate climate change, such as reducing emissions and planting more trees could slow down the glacier's recession.

However, it will still "be extremely difficult to keep them (from melting)".

Top photo from NASA