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Chilean scientists explain mystery of disappearing lake
2007-07-03 18:30:44 Xinhua English

SANTIAGO, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Chilean scientists said Tuesday that the sudden disappearance of a lake in the country had been caused by water escaping through a fissure.

Glaciologists led by Andres Rivera, of Valdivia city's Scientific Studies Center, took aerial photographs in the Temprano glacier area and used a laser altimeter to map the area where the lake disappeared.

"We believe the water drained into the glacier via a large fissure at the edge of the Bernardo Glacier, and has emptied through the ice channels into Fjord Bernardo in the north," Rivera said.

At the end of May, the National Forestry Commission reported the disappearance of the lake, located 2,100 km south of Santiago.

"We can also see that water that is arriving in the area is filling up the same basins that were emptied," Rivera said. "There are several reasons for the phenomenon, but this would not be happening without global warming."

He said it was not the first time that Chile had experienced such an event, but never on this scale.

As glaciers retreat, lakes form behind natural dams of ice or moraine, earth and stones pushed up by a glacier. Those relatively weak dams can be breached suddenly, causing the lake to drain.

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