The glacial geomorphology and Pleistocene history of South America between 38°S and 56°S

Neil Franklin Glasser, Krister N. Jansson, Stephan Harrison, Johan Kleman

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201 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents new mapping of the glacial geomorphology of southern South America between latitudes 38°S and 56°S, approximately the area covered by the former Patagonian Ice Sheets. Glacial geomorphological features, including glacial lineations, moraines, meltwater channels, trimlines, sandur and cirques, were mapped from remotely sensed images (Landsat 7 ETM+, pan-sharpened Landsat 7 and ASTER). The landform record indicates that the Patagonian Ice Sheets consisted of 66 main outlet glaciers, together with numerous local cirque glaciers and independent ice domes in the surrounding mountains. In the northern part of the mapped area, in the Chilean Lake District (38–42°S), large piedmont glaciers developed on the western side of the Andes and the maximum positions of these outlet glaciers are, in general, marked by arcuate terminal moraines. To the east of the Andes between 38°S and 42°S, outlet glaciers were more restricted in extent and formed “alpine-style” valley glaciers. Along the eastern flank of the Andes south of 45°S a series of large fast-flowing outlet glaciers drained the ice sheet. The location of these outlet glaciers was topographically controlled and there was limited scope for interactions between individual lobes. West of the Andes at this latitude, there is geomorphological evidence for an independent ice cap close to sea level on the Taitao Peninsula. The age of this ice cap is unclear but it may represent evidence of glacier growth during the Antarctic Cold Reversal and/or Younger Dryas Chronozone. Maximum glacier positions are difficult to determine along much of the western side of the Andes south of 42°S because of the limited land there, and it is assumed that most of these glaciers had marine termini. In the south-east of the mapped area, in the Fuegan Andes (Cordillera Darwin), the landform record provides evidence of ice-sheet initiation. By adding published dates for glacier advances from the literature we present maps of pre-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) glacier extent, LGM extent and the positions of other large mapped moraines younger than LGM in age. A number of large moraines occur within the known LGM limits. The age of these moraines is unknown but, since many of them lie well outside the established maximum Neoglacial positions, the possibility that they reflect a return to glacial climates during the Younger Dryas Chronozone or Antarctic Cold Reversal cannot be discounted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-4
Number of pages26
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2008


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