World

Scientists say Chile's Southern Patagonia Ice Field has 'split in two'

Chile's 12,000 square kilometre Southern Patagonia Ice Field has split in two and is likely to continue to fracture amid climate change, according to a team of Chilean scientists who were in the region in March.

Crack raises concern it's a sign of things to come

A shot of bare rock separating previously connected ice sheets of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field in Chile. (Directorate-General of Water/Chilean Public Works Ministry)

Chile's 12,000-square kilometre Southern Patagonia Ice Field has split in two and is likely to continue to fracture amid climate change, according to a team of Chilean scientists who were in the region in March.

Gino Casassa, chief of the Snow and Glacier Division of Chile's DGA water authority, told Reuters increasing temperatures along the Andes Mountains in southern Chile and Argentina have meant less snow and ice to replenish the region's abundant glaciers.

"What occurred is a fracture as the ice has retreated, Casassa said.

The chunk of ice that split off from the main glacier was estimated at 208 square kilometres, a relatively small part of the ice field.

But Casassa said it may be a sign of things to come.

Scientists who were in the region in March fear the crack is a sign of things to come. (Directorate-General of Water/Chilean Public Works Ministry)

The ice field, he said, is now "split in two, and we'll likely discover further divisions to the south," he said.

Two icebergs broke off the Grey Glacier in southern Chile's Torres del Paine National Park earlier this year, adding to fears that such ruptures are becoming more frequent.