Chronicle of a death foretold: Extinction of the small-size tropical glaciers of Popocatépetl volcano (Mexico)
The large ice masses of the world are claimed to be affected by global warming and local climatic variations. Tropical glaciers as those on Popocatépetl volcano can be affected also by the same processes but are more vulnerable because of their size and eruptive processes. Even though their extinction might not have a global impact, their disappearance deprives us of important climatic "gauges" at the ∼ 20° north latitude and impacts strongly the local environment. This is an account of the eruption-forced extinction of the glaciers of Popocatépetl volcano. We show that 40% of climatic-related shrinkage occurred in 4 decades whereas 32% of eruption-related shrinkage occurred in 4 yr. Long-term effects of glacier extinction include an imbalance between recharge and extraction of groundwater at surrounding aquifers provoked by the disappearance of glacier-related melt water. Events like this may occur at other tropical glaciers worldwide.