Its beauty is otherworldly, but it’s right here on Earth.

“I just witnessed the vastness of somewhere so rare and raw and untouched,” said Lindsay Sugo, a CU Denver Student

The Northern Patagonia ice cap isn’t exactly easy to get to, but a dozen CU Denver students and their professor made the nearly 6,000 mile journey. They spent several weeks in Patagonia to see what changes are happening to glaciers there and how it relates to glaciers here in Colorado.

“They appear to be thinning at an alarming rate,” said Frederick Chambers, a CU Denver Associate Professor of geography and environmental sciences. “Once we understand that section of global climate change, we can tie that in to what’s going on here in the Rockies and how the relationships exist between what we’re seeing here.”

For Manuel Castro, it’s a return home.

“I see how the ice is thinning,” Castro said. “I see how the winters are getting warmer and shorter and the hot season is getting longer and drier.”

Castro grew up in Patagonia and said changes to the glaciers are causing flooding for the people who live in the valleys below them.

“We don’t have any science down there, we don’t have any prediction models,” he said, “so people get flooded about two or three times a year.”

The students said the changes need to be better documented and monitored -- part of the reason they were there.

“Here [in Patagonia], it’s ice that that’s melting,” said Dan Carver, a CU Denver graduate student, “but in Colorado we’re looking at snowpack that’s changing over the next immediate future.”

They are also looking at the Andrews and Tyndall glaciers in Rocky Mountain National Park, which they said, are shrinking as well.

Two places distant places connected by similar changes.

“It felt very real to me and very much alive,” Carter said.

The CU Denver team is now partnering with a university in Chile and with Oxford University in the U.K., to try and get a grant to set up monitoring stations on the glaciers in Patagonia.