The calving glaciers of southern South America

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    97 Citations (Scopus)


    Calving glaciers constitute a great majority of all glaciers in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, and are dynamically important elements of the southern South American icefields. Large numbers of tidewater glaciers calve into the Chilean fjords, and many outlet glaciers terminate in proglacial lakes. Most probably, all are temperate and grounded, with steep mass balance gradients. A majority of these glaciers remained largely unknown to science until very recently. This paper reviews recent research in the region in the context of glaciological and Quaternary debates, and discusses current understanding and uncertainties. During the 20th century most glaciers have retreated, but the particular dynamics of calving glaciers have produced some striking exceptions to this regional trend, producing sustained advances (e.g., Glacier Pio XI, Glaciar Perito Moreno), accelerated retreats (e.g., Glaciar O'Higgins, Glaciar Marinelli), and long-maintained stillstands of glaciers with very high accumulation area ratios (e.g., Glaciar Calvo). The relative importance of climatic, topographic, and glaciodynamic controls on regional patterns of glacier fluctuation remain an enigma, especially in the Cordillera Darwin, but space-borne radar imagery is now yielding much information. Key research themes in recent years include: (1) glacier inventory work using remotely-sensed data; (2) calving rates and calving dynamics, particularly the contrast between calving rates in tidewater and freshwater; (3) glacier/climate relationships, both in historic and longer timeframes; and (4) geographic contrasts in glacier behaviour, especially the relative significance of precipitation and temperature for glacier mass balance in this region of steep climatic gradients. Many intriguing and important questions cannot presently be resolved due to the paucity of mass balance and climatic data, but current research is yielding data that have regional, interhemispheric and theoretical significance. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)59-77
    Number of pages19
    JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999


    • calving glaciers
    • Patagonia
    • South America
    • PIO-XI
    • ANDES


    Dive into the research topics of 'The calving glaciers of southern South America'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this