Climate Research in Perú

People Involved

Robert Hellström:

Jason Covert:


Lluangancuo Valley

The Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Perú is home to the highest concentration of tropical glaciers in the world. The seemingly immovable and immense rivers of ice have shaped the landscape of the Cordillera by carving out valleys and waterways over hundreds of thousands of years. In Perú, glacial melt-water is a critical water resource for those who rely on its year-round flow for agriculture and drinking water.

However, as is the case with most glaciers worldwide, the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca are experiencing dramatic loss and are in jeopardy of disappearing within the next century. Scientists have been actively studying the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca for decades attempting to better understand why they are shrinking at such a rapid rate and how to improve predictions of future melt. Though increasing air temperature caused by global climate change is considered to be a factor in the loss, it is but one of many factors which influence how quickly a glacier recedes.

Glaciers, especially in the tropics, are sensitive to a number of changes in the atmosphere including cloud-cover, precipitation, air temperature, and humidity. In order to be able to quantify, model, and predict glacier loss scientists look to weather and climate data provided by nearby weather stations in order to identify what atmospheric factors play theRobwithlascar most significant role in controlling a glaciers mass. However, the scarcity of weather and climate data in the northern Cordillera Blanca has complicated research in the region.

Our Research

In 2004, BSU Professor Rob Hellström, in collaboration with a team of scientists from The Ohio State University and McGill University, began installing a weather station network in the Llanganuco valley of the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca. The mission was to create a meteorological dataset within the valley to improve the understanding of how local scale winds influence the atmosphere surrounding nearby glaciers. The network currently consists of two automatic weather stations (AWS) connected by five micro-dataloggers at equal elevation intervals to capture temperature profiles of the atmosphere and to monitor weather throughout the valley. Though not without struggles and setbacks, the network has been active for over 10 years, providing data for research projects aiming to bring light to the largely undocumented local climate of the Llanganuco Valley.

Among other applications, Teamwithstation students have used the data to evaluate valley winds with relation to regional scale winds, to study intra-valley evapotranspiration, and to identify interannual patterns of valley winds affected by global circulation patterns such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation. We are currently applying data from the network in the Llanganuco Valley as a ground truth to downscaled Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) output describing thermal and channeled winds within the valley. The results will present evidence for a valley wind system which counteracts greater synoptic flow and plausibly acts as a catalyst for transporting moisture up-valley, supporting cloud development.

Future WorkDSC04799

Efforts to make the Llanganuco Valley weather network more robust and reliable will be the focus of future work. In 2014, a satellite datalogger was installed at one of the weather stations at the base of the valley. In July 2015, a new thermal IR sensor was installed in order to detect the presence of clouds directly above the station. The satellite station reports every two hours and can be viewed here almost live. We hope that we will have the second weather station fitted with the satellite datalogger by next summer.

Related Research

Hellström, R., Higgins, A., Ferris, D., Mark, B., Levia, D. 2010: Impacts of complex terrain on evapotranspiration within a tropical alpine valley in the Peruvian Andes. Proceedings of the 67th Eastern Snow Conference, 131-155.

Hellström, R. Å., and B. G. Mark, 2006: An Embedded Sensor Network for Measuring Hydrometeorological Variability Within a Tropical Alpine Valley. Proceedings of the 63rd Eastern Snow Conference, U. Delaware, Newark, DE, USA.

Covert, J., M., 2015: Impact of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation on Atmospheric Conditions within Tropical Pro-Glacial Valleys. Unpublished.

Ferris, D., 2010. Regional vs. Local Impact of Wind on Glaciers in the Andes Mountains. Undergraduate Review, 6, 72-76.

Higgins, A., 2009: Effects of Land Cover Variability on Evapotranspiration in the Llanganuco Valley. Undergraduate Review, 5, 18-26.