Glacier fluctuations in extratropical South America during the past 1000 years
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This paper presents an updated, extensive review of glacier fluctuations during the past 1000 years in the extratropical Andes of South America between ca. 17° and 55°S. Given the variety of environmental conditions and evidence available for glacier fluctuations across this wide latitudinal range, regional accounts are given for the Desert Andes (∼17°–31°S), the Andes of central Chile and Argentina (31°–36°S), and the North (36°–45°S) and South (45°–55°S) Patagonian Andes. The techniques, dating limitations, and interpretations of the glacier records along this transect are also discussed. Information on glacier fluctuations in the Desert Andes is limited to the 20th century. Documentation on past glacier variations is more abundant in the Central Chilean-Argentinean Andes, but the number of chronologies dealing with glacier fluctuations prior to the 1900s is also limited. Most records indicate that glaciers were generally more extensive prior to the 20th century, with dates of maximum expansion ranging from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The number and extent of glaciers increase significantly in the Patagonian region, where the evidence available for dating glacier variations during the past centuries is more abundant and the dating control for glacier events is generally better than in the northern parts of the study area. For some Patagonian glaciers, maximum Little Ice Age (LIA) or post-LIA advances have been precisely dated by dendrogeomorphological determinations or in situ measurements. However, for most sites, the evidence available is still preliminary and there is considerable variability in the extent and timing of events related to the maximum LIA expansion identified in most areas between the 16th and 19th centuries. Evidence is starting to appear at a growing number of sites for glacier advances during the first half of the past millennium. These events were generally less extensive than the LIA maximum pulses. Despite the occurrence of several post- LIA readvances over the past 100–110 years, most areas in the Andes of extratropical South America have experienced a general pattern of glacier recession and significant ice mass losses. The differences in the glacier histories observed at local and regional scales probably reflect the inherent limitations associated with the glacier records and/or the dating techniques used in each case together with the varying dominance of precipitation, temperature and other climatic and non-climatic factors on glacier mass balance and glacier dynamics. These differences indicate that the late Holocene glacier history of southern South America is more complex than commonly assumed. The evidence discussed in this study highlights not only the immense potential for glaciological studies of this region but also a significant need for an increased number of detailed, well-dated records of glacier fluctuations.
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