In the Papua province of Indonesia on the island of New Guinea, rugged mountains compose the Sudirman Range. The tallest peak in this range, Puncak Jaya, rises 4,884 meters (16,020 feet) above sea level. An adjacent peak on the rocky ridge, Ngga Pulu, reaches almost as high at 4,862 meters (15,950 feet). Although the mountains are located just south of the equator, their elevation is high enough and the air temperatures are cold enough to still support a few small areas of “permanent” ice.
The icefields around Puncak Jaya are rare. You won’t find glacial ice for another 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) to the north on Japan’s Mount Tate, which lies outside the tropics where glacial ice is more common. Within the tropics, the closest glacial ice can be found 11,200 kilometers (6,900 miles) away on Mount Kenya in Africa. Like tropical glaciers elsewhere in the world, the glaciers on the slopes around Puncak Jaya have been shrinking and scientists estimate they could be gone within about a decade.