Thousands gather in Argentina to watch massive glacier collapse

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Argentina’s massive Perito Moreno glacier this week began the process leading to its cyclical rupture, a spectacular event involving the collapse of huge masses of ice that draw thousands of tourists and that has not happened since 2012.

“The Perito Moreno Glacier began its breakup process. We’re waiting! (We) came to experience it firsthand!,” said the Tourism Secretariat of El Califate, a city some 80 km (50 mi.) from the glacier, Tuesday on Twitter.

Before the big show, a huge number of tourists and the news media began arriving at the Los Glaciares National Park in the southern province of Santa Cruz, which receives some 700,000 tourist each year.

“It’s not known how long it’s going to take. We only know from earlier experiences. In the last breakups starting from the moment when the outflow starts, which is what happened this morning, the process normally takes … three or four days,” park official Matilde Oviedo told EFE.

Pressure from the weight of the ice slowly pushes the glacier over the southern arm of Argentino Lake, damming that area and separating it from the rest of the lake. With no outlet, the water level in that closed-off lake section rises up to 30 meters (100 feet) above the level of the main body of Argentino Lake.

Every few years, the pressure produced by the height of the dammed water breaks through the ice barrier causing a spectacular rupture, sending a huge outpouring of water from the dammed-up section into the main lake area.

The most recent rupture was in March 2012 and the one before that was in 2008.

“Most (ruptures) … have been at this time of year – at the end of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer – but we’ve also had one in July (in winter). It’s quite variable,” Oviedo said.

Perito Moreno, which covers some 200 square kilometers (about 77 square miles), is located in the Andes, the natural border between Argentina and Chile and is one of the few glaciers in the world that is not receding due to global warming.

The glacier is located in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third-largest concentration of fresh water ice in the world after the two poles.

Source: Fox News Latino / EFE

Photo: The ice bridge cracks from the wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier located at Los Glaciares National Park. (AFP: Walter Diaz)

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