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Pomona College

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation


The Chimborazo volcano of the central Ecuadorian Andean Cordillera (6310 m) has been shown to currently be undergoing extreme glacial recession due to climate change. For this reason, this study sought to analyze climate and glacier recession data in conjunction with streamflow from kryal (glacial-fed), rhithral (non-glacial-fed), and intermediate streams to not only evaluate the current health of Chimborazo’s glaciers, but also determine how hydrology in the region will respond to future climate change. The rate of glacial recession on the volcano was determined using satellite imagery between 1965 and 2019. Measurements of stream elevation, pH, water temperature, width, depth, and turbidity were taken at a total of 11 sites, 4 kryal sites, 4 rhithral sites, and 3 intermediate sites. Climate data was measured over the course of 20 days and used in comparison with stream data. An estimation of overall glacial recession of 42.5% was made between 1965 and 2019, with this value most likely being higher on the southwestern aspect of the volcano where data was collected. Kryal streams were observed to encompass the greatest range of water temperature in any stream-type, with their coldest temperatures between 5.5 and 7.5 ˚C already being too warm for the upper limits of kryal streams. Rhithral streams generally responded to differences in precipitation and air temperature more than kryal streams. However, the kryal stream with a source deeper in the volcano’s rain shadow responded similarly to rhithral streams. Together, these data implied a lower degree of glacial influence, with the least influence farthest into Chimborazo’s rain shadow. Furthermore, it exemplified that there no longer exist truly kryal streams on the volcano’s southwestern aspect. Implications of this data include that streams in this part of the reserve will become more susceptible to climate change in the future, as glacial influence all but disappears.


Climate | Environmental Monitoring | Fresh Water Studies | Glaciology | Latin American Studies | Volcanology


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