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Late Pleistocene climate conditions in the north Chilean Andes drawn from a climate–glacier model

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Abstract:

A climate–glacier model was used to reconstruct Late-glacial climate conditions from two case-study glaciers at 18° and 22°S in the arid (sub)tropical western Andes of northern Chile. The model uses (i) the geometry of the Late-glacial maximum glaciation, (ii) modern diurnal and annual cycles, amplitudes and lapse rates of the climate, (iii) empirical–statistical sublimation, melt and accumulation models developed for this area, and (iv) dynamic ice flow through two known cross-sections for steady-state conditions. The model is validated with modern conditions and compares favorably with the glaciological features of today. The mass-balance model calculates the modern equilibrium-line altitude at 18deg; S as high as 5850 m (field data 5800 m), whereas no glaciers exist in the fully arid southern area at 22° S despite altitudes above 6000 m and continuous per- mafrost. For Late-glacial times, the model results suggest a substantial increase in tropical summer precipitation (ΔP = +840 (–50/+ 10) mm a –1for the northern test area; +1000 (–10/+ 30) mm a –1for the southern test area) and a moderate temperature depression (ΔT = 4.4 (–0.1/+ 0.2) °C at 18° S; –3.2 (±0.1) °C at 22°S). Extratropical frontal winter precipitation (June–September) was <15% of the total annual precipitation. A scenario with higher winter precipitation from the westerlies circulation belt does not yield a numerical solution which matches the observed geometry of the glaciers. Therefore, we conclude that an equatorward displacement of the westerlies must be discarded as a possible explanation for the late Pleistocene glaciation in the Andes of northern Chile.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756500781832611

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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