INDONESIA: Recent findings from the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency of Indonesia (BMKG) have brought attention to the alarming rate at which the eternal ice in Papua’s mountainous region is diminishing.
Over the period from 2016 to 2022, an ice mass equivalent to 10 football fields has been lost. This relentless trend is expected to culminate in the complete disappearance of the ice before the year 2026.
Discussing the specifics, Donaldi Sukma Permana, the Climatology Research Coordinator at BMKG’s Research and Development Center, presented a disconcerting analysis during an online seminar on Tuesday (22 Aug).
He revealed that between 2016 and 2021, the ice loss averaged 0.07 square kilometers annually, corresponding to an area roughly 10 times the size of a football field.
Elaborating on the predictions, Donaldi explained that BMKG is utilizing advanced modeling techniques to project the remaining lifespan of this ice.
Their conclusion underscores the likelihood of its extinction before 2026, a risk further exacerbated by the potential occurrence of a strong El Nino event.
The melting glacier phenomenon, which is not confined to Papua but extends globally, has been observed in polar regions as well as tropical mountainous areas.
Dwikorita Karnawati, the Head of BMKG, highlighted the drastic fluctuations in ice thickness over the years.
She reported that the ice in Papua’s mountainous region thinned at a rate of about one meter annually between 2010 and 2015.
However, the occurrence of El Nino in 2015-2016 triggered a dramatic acceleration, causing ice depletion to surge to 5 meters per year.
The ice cover in Puncak Jaya has experienced a steady decline
The timeline is sobering: in 2010, the ice thickness was estimated at 32 meters, with depletion of 1 meter per year until 2015.
This loss spiked to 5 meters per year during 2015-2016, followed by a more moderate thinning rate of around 2.5 meters per year between 2016 and 2022.
Dwikorita further warned that the ongoing El Nino phenomenon in 2023 could exacerbate the process of ice loss, accelerating the vanishing of the ice cover in Papua.
Beyond the quantitative analysis, experts are paying attention to the geographical specifics.
Mount Puncak Jaya, the focal point of this study, hosts three primary areas with ice: West Northwall Firn, East Northwall Firn and Carstensz Glacier.
Regrettably, only two of these areas remain: East Northwall Firn and Carstensz Glacier, underscoring the rapid decline.
Donaldi pointed out another significant consequence of rising temperatures: the shift from snowfall to rainfall.
Previously, areas at lower altitudes would receive snowfall, but the rising temperatures have transformed this into ordinary rainwater.
Consequently, the process of ice melting in lower-altitude regions has been expedited.
The plight of the ice in Papua’s mountainous region serves as a poignant reminder of the far-reaching impacts of climate change, urging global efforts to address this urgent environmental challenge.
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