Near the tip of South America lies an unbroken mass of ice about 350km long, covering an area of 12,363sq km. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the third largest reserve of fresh water on Earth (after the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.) However, the ice is melting at an alarming rate as the planet warms up. The giant ice cap has retreated by 1km since the early 1990s, and 10km since the late 19th century.
Almost all of the 47 large glaciers in Patagonia's Los Glacieres National Park have retreated over the past 50 years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). Studies show that glaciers in Patagonia are receding at a faster rate than anywhere else on Earth.
These pictures by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama capture the incredible scale of these glaciers. They also reveal the surprising beauty of this frozen landscape, with its jagged ice fields, towering cliffs, bright blue icebergs and turquoise pools.
The nations of the world are attending the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris, which runs from 30 November to 11 December. It is hoped that by the end of the summit, the world will have come to an agreement to limit emissions in order to prevent global warming exceeding 2C above pre-industrial levels.
The last time that the nations of the world struck a binding agreement to fight global warming was 1997, in Kyoto, Japan. Things have changed dramatically over the past 18 years. The differences can be measured in degrees on a thermometer, trillions of tons of melting ice, a rise in sea level of a couple of inches.
This article was first published
on December 3, 2015