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Secular trend of the equilibrium-line altitude on the western side of the southern Andes, derived from radiosonde and surface observations

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The altitude of the 0°C isotherm obtained from radiosonde data of the aerological Chilean stations Antofagasta, Quintero/Santo Domingo, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas are analyzed, along with surface temperature and precipitation records from nearby stations. The strong effect of the 1976/77 climate shift due to a change in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is evident in the temperature and precipitation data. The data are used as input for an empirical model which reconstructs annually the equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) for the last 49 years on the western side of the southern Andes. The model takes air temperature, precipitation and altitude as the main parameters, and was first developed by Fox (1993) and applied by Condom and others (2007). From the radiosonde data, a significant positive trend of the 0°C isotherm has occurred in the northern, central and southern regions, indicating an ELA rise due to regional warming. General glacier retreat, ice thinning and negative mass balance observed during the past few decades in virtually all the Chilean Andes concur with the observed ELA reconstruction. In the Punta Arenas radiosonde record there is slight evidence for precipitation increase but no evidence for significant warming in the past few decades. This results in a slight lowering of the ELA according to the model reconstruction, which does not agree with the strong and increased glacier retreat observed in recent decades in Patagonia.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2008

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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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