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Glacier inventory and recent glacier variations in the Andes of Chile, South America

  • Gonzalo Barcaza (a1), Samuel U. Nussbaumer (a2) (a3), Guillermo Tapia (a1), Javier Valdés (a1), Juan-Luis García (a4), Yohan Videla (a5), Amapola Albornoz (a6) and Víctor Arias (a7)...


The first satellite-derived inventory of glaciers and rock glaciers in Chile, created from Landsat TM/ETM+ images spanning between 2000 and 2003 using a semi-automated procedure, is presented in a single standardized format. Large glacierized areas in the Altiplano, Palena Province and the periphery of the Patagonian icefields are inventoried. The Chilean glacierized area is 23 708 ± 1185 km2, including ~3200 km2 of both debris-covered glaciers and rock glaciers. Glacier distribution varies as a result of climatic gradients with latitude and elevation, with 0.8% occurring in the Desert Andes (17°30′–32° S); 3.6% in the Central Andes (32–36° S), 6.2% in the Lakes District and Palena Province (36–46° S), and 89.3% in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego (46–56° S). Glacier outlines, across all glacierized regions and size classes, updated to 2015 using Landsat 8 images for 98 complexes indicate a decline in areal extent affecting mostly clean-ice glaciers (−92.3 ± 4.6 km2), whereas debris-covered glaciers and rock glaciers in the Desert and Central Andes appear nearly unchanged in their extent. Glacier attributes estimated from this new inventory provide valuable insights into spatial patterns of glacier shrinkage for assessing future glacier changes in response to climate change.

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