Sunday, January 26, 2003

Mendoza, Argentina:

...where it is very hot. One hundred and ten. Forty-four C. Ah, but the wine makes up for it. From my hotel we can see the snow on the Andes. I wrote a story about climbing Aconcagua in 1977 that I will post at the appropriate dates later this year.

The main thing about the snow is that it is disappearing. All the glaciers in the Andes are in full retreat, and places like Mendoza, in the Andean rain-shadow, depend on the winter buildup of snowpack for both their surface- and well-water. The fact that the glaciers are retreating means that there is a current abundance of water, making the agricultural industries here viable - wine, wheat, etc. There is a large economy based on the current supply of water. Unfortunately, the snow pack is not being replenished at the same rate as it is melting - viz. the retreat of the glaciers. The water is being spent faster than it is being saved. It will take only a few decades to use up about 10,000 years of accumulation. After that, drought. Severe drought. In 1968 they had a lack of snowfall that caused an over 30 percent drop in gross regional product, so the vulnerability is real.

This long term trend does not bode well for some of Argentina´s prime exports: wine and wheat. So drink some of that delicious Malbec while you can. It probably won´t last your lifetime.

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