Glaciers in Patagonia


Natphotos/Digital Vision/Getty Image

Los Glaciares National Park

Patagonia is the southernmost area of South America and includes regions of both Chile and Argentina. Would it surprise you to learn that much of Patagonia is covered with ice fields and glaciers? In fact, Patagonia has the third largest concentration of continental ice in the world. Where do you think the other two are?

Glorious examples of the natural beauty of the glaciers can be seen in Los Glaciares National Park in the Andes, on the border between Chile and Argentina. Notice on the map the large lakes—Lago Argentina and Lago Viedma—which formed from the thawing of the alpine glaciers.

One of the world’s most beautiful and famous glaciers, Perito Moreno, is located in the southern area of the park. Visitors can view and listen to the spectacular, thundering ice falls, and then watch the broken ice float away as icebergs.


Javier Perini/Image Source

Blue ice of the Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park

Unfortunately, the glaciers in the Andes Mountains of Chile and Argentina are losing their ice volume. The ice is melting at a much faster pace than scientists had previously believed, and the pace continues to increase. Ecuador’s Cotacachi glacier has already disappeared, and the Patagonian glaciers are headed in the same direction. Warmer temperatures, which increase rain and not snow, are the main contributors toward the disappearance of the glaciers. Since glacial ice accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s fresh water, a serious water shortage in Patagonia could threaten plant, animal, and human life. Scientists, governments, and organizations such as Greenpeace are busy working toward solutions to this impending threat.



McGraw-Hill Education

Patagonia and Los Glaciares National Park

Explore More:
1. Research other areas of the Spanish-speaking world that have glaciers. What is the history of these glaciers? What is their present situation?

2. Investigate what is currently being done in Chile and Argentina about the meltdown of glaciers. Go to Glencoe World News Online to look up articles in Chilean or Argentine newspapers about this topic.

3. List the potential consequences of melting glaciers. Why does the disappearance of glaciers pose such a serious threat?

Share What You Know:
1. Discuss actions people can take to help the environment. What do you and your family do? Do you recycle? Do you carpool? What does your community do? Is your school active in trying to help the Earth? Does your school have an Earth or Environmental Club, or would you be interested in starting one?

2. Are you aware that there are glaciers in the United States? Can you name the ten states that have glaciers? How do these glaciers compare with the ones found in Patagonia? Are there any glaciers near where you live? Have you ever seen or walked on a glacier? If so, can you describe the experience?

3. Have you studied glaciers in science class? If so, share what you learned about their formation and movement.