Postglacial fluctuations of western outlet glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Icefield reconstructed from fjord sediments (Chile, 50°S)

Resumen: Postglacial fluctuations of Southern Patagonian Icefield (SPI) glaciers are well constrained on the leeward side of the Andes, but they remain mostly unknown on the windward side of the icefield, where most glaciers are marine-terminating. Here, we reconstruct the postglacial fluctuations of the HPS19, Penguin, and Europa glaciers along the hyperhumid western side of the SPI using a multi-proxy sedimentological and geochemical analysis of a 12.2 m long sediment core from Wide Channel (50°S). Results show that the glaciers retreated into Penguin and Europa fjords by 11.2 cal kyr BP and that they were relatively stable and marine-terminating between 11.2 and 5.8 cal kyr BP. Thereafter, they fluctuated rapidly, with four marked episodes of glacier shrinkage at 5.8–4.8, 3.9–2.4, 1.0–0.2 cal kyr BP, and during the 20th century. Although the HPS19, Penguin, and Europa glaciers were calving into Penguin and Europa fjords during most of the Holocene, our data suggest that they retreated to land-based positions between 5.8 and 4.8 cal kyr BP. The comparison of our sediment record with geological archives from both sides of the Patagonian icefields (46°–56°S) suggests synchronous glacier variability on multi-centennial timescales during the Neoglacial period, which is particularly clear after 2.5 cal kyr BP. We conclude that western SPI outlet glaciers remained relatively stable during the first half of the Holocene but fluctuated considerably during the Neoglacial period, and that they retreated to locations further inland than today during the first retreat of the Neoglacial period between 5.8 and 4.8 cal kyr BP.

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