Latin America

In Peru, a melting glacier threatens to flood a city. For the second time

Glacial lake Palcacocha has grown 34 times larger in four decades. A local man’s lawsuit against a German energy firm is keeping international attention on the rising flood risks

Lake Palcacocha, located in the Cordillera Blanca range of the Peruvian Andes, has grown 34 times larger over the past four decades due to melting glacier Photo: Walter Huipu/Germanwatch
Lake Palcacocha, located in the Cordillera Blanca range of the Peruvian Andes, has grown 34 times larger over the past four decades due to melting glaciers. Photo: Walter Huipu/Germanwatch

At first glance, Lake Palcacocha is the most peaceful of places. At 4,500 meters above sea level in the central Peruvian Andes, its turquoise waters and the bright blue sky contrast with the intense white ice of the glacier perched on the mountainside between them. 

Stay a little longer, however, and this tranquility is interrupted by the noise of avalanches and blocks of ice and rock breaking off from Palcaraju, one of the peaks that surround the lake.

Each year, Palcaraju’s ice sheet shrinks and feeds Palcacocha, which in 42 years has swelled to 34 times its former volume, according...

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