New evidence of glacier surges in the Central Andes of Argentina and Chile

Daniel Falaschi*, Tobias Bolch, Maria Gabriela Lenzano, Takeo Tadono, Andrés Lo Vecchio, Luis Lenzano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


In contrast to the large surge-type glacier clusters widely known for several mountain ranges around the world, the presence of surging glaciers in the Andes has been historically seen as marginal. The improved availability of satellite imagery during the last years facilitates investigating of glaciers in more detail even in remote areas. The purpose of the study was therefore to revisit existing information about surge-type glaciers for the Central Andes of Argentina and Chile (32° 40′–34° 20′ S), to identify and characterize possible further surge-type glaciers, providing new insights into the mass balance and evolution of the velocity of selected glaciers during the surge phase. Based on the analysis of 1962–2015 satellite imagery, historical aerial images, differencing of digital elevation models and a literature survey, we identified 21 surge-type glaciers in the study area. Eleven surge events and six possible surge-type glaciers were identified and described for the first time. The estimation of annual elevation changes of these glaciers for the 2000–2011 period, which encompasses the latest surge events in the region, showed heterogeneous behavior with strongly negative to positive surface elevation change patterns (−1.1 to +1.0 m yr−1). Additionally, we calculated maximum surface velocities of 3±1.9 m d−1 and 3.1±1.1 m d−1 for two of the glaciers during the latest identifiable surge events of 1985–1987 and 2003–2007. Within this glacier cluster, highly variable advance rates (0.01–1 km yr−1) and dissimilar surface velocities at the surge peak (3–35 m d−1) were observed. In comparison with other clusters worldwide, surge-type glaciers in the Central Andes are on average smaller and show minor absolute advances. Generally low velocities and the heterogeneous duration of the surge cycles are common between them and glaciers in the Karakorum, a region with similar climatic characteristics and many known surge-type glaciers. As a definitive assertion concerning the underlying surge mechanism of surges in the Central Andes could not be drawn based on the remote sensing data, this opens more detailed research avenues for surge-type glaciers in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-825
Number of pages34
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number6
Early online date3 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Central Andes
  • glacier elevation change
  • glacier mass balance
  • glacier surface velocity
  • Surge-type glacier


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