• View from Pisco summit
  • Beautiful views

Volunteer research in Peru

Since 2011 I have been involved in volunteer research with the American Climber Science Program (ACSP). The ACSP is an all volunteer organization which conducts citizen enabled scientific research in mountain regions around the world. We have now conducted four annual research expeditions to the Cordillera Blanca mountains in Peru. Some photos from my work in Peru can be seen here: Photos

For our Peru research expeditions I have been the principle investigator on a project investigating the contamination of glaciers by black carbon and dust. For this research, we have collected snow samples from more than ten mountain peaks in the Cordillera Blanca. In the four years of expeditions we have collected more than 300 samples making the Cordillera Blanca one of the most well sampled regions in the world and it turns out that these may be the only black carbon measurements in South America.

In the fall of 2013, I began working with the Pollution and its Impacts on the South American Cryosphere PISAC Initiative which was began to understand the impact of black carbon on the South American cryosphere. I will be working with PISAC and the ACSP to develop a sampling program to further increase our understanding of impacts of black carbon in the Andes.

I am working with several students from several universities (Peruvian and US) to expand this research.

Black carbon on glaciers is important because it increases the melt rates. Very rough estimates lead us to suspect that up to 20 percent of the glacial mass loss in some regions of Peru is due to light absorbing particles in the snow. Ongoing research with the help of several local students will enable us to calculate this number more accurately. Since 1970, more than 40% of the glacier surface area in Peru has been lost. The biggest factor causing this melting is the observed increase in temperature from climate change.

Glaciers are critical to the water supply in many regions, and without glaciers, some mountain streams are projected to have their dry season water flow reduced to half. Black carbon on glaciers is speeding up this process. Black carbon production in Peru comes mostly from local sources, transportation, local industry, and local agriculture or forest burning. As these sources are local, with correct policy, they can be controlled and black carbon production can be reduced. While this won't stop the glacier melting, reducing the black carbon on glaciers will slow the melt rates and thus give the communities more time to adapt their infrastructure to handle the changing conditions.