Early and mid-Holocene age for the Tempanos moraines, Laguna San Rafael, Patagonian Chile


Data about the nature and timing of Holocene events from the Southern Hemisphere, especially in southern South America, are required to provide insight into the extent and nature of past climate change in a region where land-based records are restricted. Here we present the first use of single grain Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating of a moraine sequence recording glacial advance along the western side of the Patagonian Icefields. Dates from the Tempanos moraines at Laguna San Rafael (LSR) show that the San Rafael Glacier (SRG) advanced to maximum Holocene positions during the period 9.3 to 9.7 ka and at 5.7 ka. Outwash lying beneath the moraine in its northern portion, dated to 7.7 ka, indicates that the glacier front was also advanced at this time. Since these advances span both the regional early Holocene warm-dry phase (11.5 ka to 7.8 ka) and the subsequent cooling and rise in precipitation in the mid-late Holocene (since 6.6 ka) we infer that the advances of the SRG are not simply climate-driven, but that the glacier has also probably responded strongly to non-climatic stimuli such as internal ice dynamics and the transition between calving and non-calving. Many westwards-flowing glaciers in Patagonia were probably calving during much of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene, so we conclude that establishing robust glacial chronologies where climatic and non-climatic factors cannot be distinguished is likely to remain a challenge.

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