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Lorentz National Park is located in Papua Province
Lorentz National Park is located in Papua Province. (Source: Shutterstock)

Climate change has a huge impact in the world, and Indonesia is no exception. The one and only glacier of Indonesia, which is located at the peak of the Jayawijaya Mountains, Papua, or often referred to as Carstensz Peak, has also been affected by the warming of the earth’s temperature. The glacier located in Lorentz National Park in Papua Province is one of the last tropical glaciers in Asia, earning this glacier the nickname “The Eternal Glacier”. The glacier, which is above the peak of the Jayawijaya Mountains, is the remnant of an iceberg that was formed about 5,000 years ago.

Tropical glaciers are one of the most sensitive indicators of climate change. Now there are fewer and fewer of them left in the world. Besides Papua, tropical glaciers are also found in South America and Africa. Meanwhile, the Jayawijaya Mountains are the highest in Indonesia, the highest peak between the Himalayas and the Andes. At an altitude of 4,884 meters above sea level, the temperature drops and the rain turns to snow, which then forms ice and solidifies into glaciers. Indonesia is one of the wettest regions on earth, and it rains in the Papua region almost 300 days a year. However, the warmer temperature causes rainwater no longer crystallizes into snow. As a result, glaciers are melting from above and below

BMKG (Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi, dan Geofisika/Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency) senior researcher, Donaldi Permana, says that Indonesians are not aware of the existence of this glacier. Although the peak of the Jayawijaya Mountains does not have ice at its peak, there are several layers of ice around it. He also explains that the process of melting the ice on the glacier, which is relatively fast, can be seen based on data on the shrinking of the glacier area from 1850 to 2018.

In 1850, the glacier had an area of ​​19.3 square kilometers. Then in 1972, the area of ​​the glacier shrank to 7.3 square kilometers. Data in 2018 shows the condition of the glacier area reaches 0.5 square kilometers. Seeing this, scientists predict that the peak glacier of the Jayawijaya Mountains will completely disappear by 2026, but the glacier is predicted to become extinct or disappear in 2021.

Causes of Glacier Reduction

Illustration of a Melting Glacier
Illustration of a Melting Glacier. (Source: Christopher Michel/Flickr)

The cause of the shrinking of this glacier is extreme climate change which is characterized by global warming. Citing reports Indonesian Third National Communication. The report explains that surface temperature tends to increase by 1.5 degrees celsius and surface temperature increases by 0.25 degrees celcius per decade.

In Indonesia in particular, the El Nino phenomenon has exacerbated the shrinking of glaciers in Papua, which is happening more rapidly from year to year. The El Nino phenomenon is a climatic event in which sea surface temperatures and atmospheric temperatures increase. This phenomenon occurs when warm air cuts off rainfall, causing the surrounding area to dry out.

As a result, the shrinking of this glacier will have an impact on the surrounding areas. To name a few: change in river flow in Papua, which has been the source of drinking water. Additionally, based on local wisdom, indigenous Papuans perceives the glacier to be a sacred entity, so that the shrinking of this glacier is considered to be a loss of a leader in Papua’s indigenous belief.

What should we do?

Glacier at the top of the Jayawijaya Mountains
Glacier at the top of the Jayawijaya Mountains. (Source: Shutterstock)

The El Nino phenomenon is the biggest driving factor for the shrinking of this glacier. However, it is not only the shrinking of glaciers that are affected by this phenomenon but also forest fires that have also attracted the government’s attention in paying attention to the impacts caused by the El Nino phenomenon.

In 2019, the Indonesian government declared 16 provinces at risk of forest fires ahead of the El Nino phenomenon which is determined by climate patterns. This shows that the El Nino phenomenon can be anticipated by the government. If the El Nino phenomenon can be controlled, then the hope will remain for the last glacier in Indonesia.

Discussions about El Nino revolve more around the issue of mitigation and resilience than prevention. In the Jayawijaya glacier issue, mitigation will help Papuans respond to the effects of glacier shrinkage and of course climate change, but will not help prevent glacier shrinkage itself.

Sustainable consumption and production can be the key to preventing glacier shrinkage. As more people choose goods and services that are proven to be more environmentally friendly and produce less carbon, producers will be encouraged to match market demand by producing goods and services that are more environmentally friendly as well. Reducing fossil energy consumption by saving electricity, transition to renewable energy, and using public transportation are some simple ways to get started.

Written by: Yohanna Christiani


https://www.kompas.com/sains/read/2020/12/05/183300823/puncak-jaya-papua-gletser-terakhir-di-asia-yang-diprediksi-punah-tahun?page=all accessed on 30 September 2021.

https://www.suara.com/news/2020/12/04/165957/puncak-jaya-di-papua-jadi-gletser-tropis-terakhir-di-dunia-terancam-punah accessed on 30 September 2021.

https://www.dw.com/id/gletser-di-papua-akan-punah-dalam-satu-dekade/a-51653411 accessed on 30 September 2021.

https://www.goodnewsfromindonesia.id/2020/06/13/ragam-upaya-mencegah-hilangnya-salju-papua accessed on 30 September 2021.

https://www.mongabay.co.id/2020/06/17/the-last-glacier-runtuhnya-salju-abadi-papua/ accessed on 30 September 2021.

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