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Melting snow cover on Jaya Wijaya Peak, Indonesia raises concerns over climate change impact

Indonesia’s iconic eternal snow on Jaya Wijay Peak a is rapidly melting due to climate change and El Nino, endangering local ecosystems and communities.

Experts warn of potential flash floods resulting from the melting ice and subsequent filling of nearby lakes.



INDONESIA: The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), has raised an alarm as the snow cover on Jaya Wijaya Peak continues to melt at an alarming rate.

The head of BMKG, Dwikorita Karnawati, expressed deep concern over this situation, attributing the phenomenon to the changing climate and the El Nino phenomenon.

As reported by detikEdu, Dwikorita emphasized that these changes pose a serious threat to the delicate ecosystem surrounding the eternal snow of Jaya Wijaya Peak.

The impact of climate change also extends to the traditional local communities that have long relied on the balance of the environment and natural resources in the region.

Indonesia, despite being located in the tropics, boasts a unique feature: eternal snow on Jaya Wijaya Peak in Papua. This geographical phenomenon has attracted the attention of scientists, researchers, and nature enthusiasts.

However, over the past few decades, there has been a drastic reduction in the extent of the snow cover.

BMKG has collaborated with Ohio State University, USA, since 2010 to study paleo-climatology using ice core samples from the Jaya Peak glaciers. According to Dwikorita, the results of this study indicate that the snow cover on Puncak Jaya is melting and heading towards extinction.

Rapid thinning of Jaya Wijaya Peak glaciers

In 2010, the ice thickness was estimated to be 32 meters, with an annual thinning rate of 1 meter between 2010 and 2015. During the strong El Nino event in 2015-2016, the thinning rate increased to 5 meters per year.

Donaldi Sukma Permana, leader of the Climate Change Impact Study on Jaya Peak Glaciers, added that between 2016 and 2022, the ice thinning rate was around 2.5 meters per year. The snow cover extent on the eternal snow is approximately 0.23 square kilometers and continues to decline.

This phenomenon also contributes to the global sea level rise, as highlighted by the climate experts at BMKG.

Professor Muh Altin Massinai, a geophysics expert from Hasanuddin University (Unhas), explains that Indonesia is currently experiencing global warming, which is causing the snow on Jaya Wijaya Peak to melt.

He suggests that while the snow might disappear temporarily due to global warming, it could return during the winter season in the region. Altin believes that this cyclic melting and freezing are akin to the patterns observed in polar regions.

However, Altin also warns that the current conditions could have severe implications for the surrounding areas of Jaya Wijaya Peak. He notes the potential for flash floods resulting from the melting ice and subsequent filling of nearby lakes.

The phenomenon of melting eternal snow in Papua has attracted the attention of foreign media outlets as well. The Guardian reported that the eternal snow in Papua is predicted to disappear by 2026 due to the prolonged El Nino weather patterns since 2019, causing extended dry seasons in Indonesia.

According to Donaldi Sukma Permana, these glaciers might vanish before 2026, accelerated by the effects of El Nino.

A study published in the Global and Planetary Change journal in 2021 tracked snow changes in Papua, as well as in Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), the Andes (Peru and Bolivia), the Tibetan Plateau, and the Himalayas, revealing the disappearance of these snow covers.

Reuters also highlighted the continuous melting of the eternal snow in Papua, with thickness reducing from 32 meters in 2010 to 8 meters in 2021 and the total area diminishing from 2.4 square kilometers in 2000 to 0.23 square kilometers in 2022.

The rapid decline of the snow cover on Jaya Wijaya Peak underscores the urgent need for global action to mitigate the effects of climate change and preserve the delicate ecosystems and communities at risk.

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