LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — The snow appears to be pristine on the Andean peaks that loom above Bolivia's capital, but even here ash and smog reach up to a remote plateau that is home to the world's highest atmospheric observatory.

It's an ideal site for a team of international scientists who collect data on pollution that has contributed to the rapid disappearance of Andean glaciers.

Research at the Chacaltaya station, which is located at 17,192 feet (5,240 meters) above sea level, has a pressing urgency: The retreat of glaciers, which is compounded by global warming, threatens the main source of fresh water for residents in the nearby cities of EL Alto and La Paz — and the crops on which they rely.

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