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Glacier recession on Cerro Charquini (16° S), Bolivia, since the maximum of the Little Ice Age (17th century)

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Cerro Charquini, Bolivia (Cordillera Real, 5392 ma.s.l.) was selected as a site to reconstruct glacier recession since the maximum of the Little Ice Age (LIA) in the central Andes. Five glaciers, located on differently exposed slopes, present comprehensive and well-preserved morainic systems attributed to former centuries. The moraines were dated by lichenometry and show a consistent organization on the different slopes. The past geometry of the glaciers was reconstructed using ground topography and aerophotogrammetry. Lichenometric dating shows that the LIA maximum occurred in the second half of the 17th century, after which the glaciers have receded nearly continuously. Over the last decades of the 20th century (1983–97), recession rates increased by a factor of four. On the northern and western slopes, glaciers receded more than on the southern and eastern slopes (by 78% and 65% of their LIA maximum area, respectively). The mean equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) rose by about 160 m between the LIA maximum and 1997. Recession rates were analysed in terms of climatic signal, suggesting that glacier recession since the LIA maximum was mainly due to a change in precipitation and that the 19th century may have been drier. For the 20th century, a temperature rise of about 0.6°C appears to be the main cause of glacier recession. Recent climatic conditions from 1983 to 1997 correspond to a mass deficit of about 1.36 mw.e.a−1. If such conditions persist, the small glaciers below 5300 ma.s.l. in the Cordillera Real should disappear completely in the near future.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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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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