Where we work

The Andes Mountains, the longest mountain range in the world, have been on the front-line of climate change for several decades.  In the Andes, particularly in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru, the proximity of human society to the high mountains and to tropical glaciers creates a unique risk.  These communities have already felt the impacts of the changing climate on water resources.  And the immediate danger of new threats, such as glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), has already been experienced.  In 1941, when a GLOF killed thousands and devastated Huaraz, the capital of Ancash, Peruvians began to develop strategies to effectively adapt to their new hazardous environment.  Engineering solutions to drain glacial lakes, such as Laguna Palcacocha and Laguna Paron, substantially reduced the risk of a GLOF from these lakes and provided control over the water resources in the region.  Yet, despite these successful technical solutions to manage glacial lakes, the scientific, social, and institutional capacity to continue to adapt to climate change in the Andes is lacking.

The HiMAP focus in the Andes is to strengthen the capacity of Peruvian society, government, and technical experts to address the changes occurring in the high mountains by providing the best available technical information while simultaneously increasing civil society’s ability to develop solutions.  An expedition during June 2012 brought technical ground-penetrating radar equipment to the region to obtain new data about the glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca and a risk perception study was conducted to gauge the views of Peruvian society.

Future projects in the Andes include: collaboration with the Glaciology Unit of Peru, part of the National Water Authority, to provide technical support in their glacier and glacial lake monitoring; increasing civil society’s knowledge about climate change’s impacts; and, strengthening the institutional capacity of government agencies to better understand the intricacies of climate change and to invest in new adaptation projects.

Many of HiMAP's projects in Peru can be viewed in the proceedings from the 2013 Glacial Flooding and Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Exchange and Field Training.