Retroceso del glaciar del Carihuairazo y sus implicaciones en la comunidad de Cunucyacu

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David Hidalgo
Jean-Carlos Ruíz
Luis Maisincho
Bolívar Cáceres
Verónica Crespo-Pérez
Christian Domínguez
David Piedra
Thomas Condom
Marcos Villacís


The retreat of glaciers is a reality throughout the Andes Mountain range, especially in low-altitude mountains. One of these cases is the loss of the remaining ice mass in Carihuairazo (Tungurahua, Ecuador), which in recent years has experienced a considerable retreat. This research aims to characterize the retreat of this glacier and its implications for the nearby community (Cunucyacu) through the application of a multi-source methodology, which includes the collection of glacier aerial photographs, data from nearby meteorological stations, the use of global climate reanalysis data, interviews with community members, and mountaineers who work and frequent the area. To characterize the glacier’s mass evolution, a hydroglaciological model was applied, using input data from meteorological series, and its parameters were calibrated with the photographic record of the glacier’s outline. The results show a glacier loss of 99% of its surface in 1956 (0.34 ) by 2021. The model successfully simulates the glacier area variation over 67 years, revealing a continuous decrease since 1978, with short periods of recovery and equilibrium, where temperature is the variable that best explains the glacier’s retreat. However, the model fails to consider the effect of external factors, such as the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano that could enhance the glacier retreat. The Carihuairazo glacier is in a situation of inevitable disappearance, highlighting the vulnerabilities of communities facing this phenomenon as a consequence of climate change.