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Last glacial maximum equilibrium-line altitude and paleo-temperature reconstructions for the Cordillera de Mérida, Venezuelan Andes

  • Nathan D. Stansell (a1), Pratigya J. Polissar (a2) and Mark B. Abbott (a1)


The pattern and magnitude of glacier equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) lowerings in the tropics during the last glacial maximum (LGM) are topics of current debate. In the northern tropics, paleo-ELA data are particularly limited, inhibiting the ability to make regional and large-scale paleoclimatic inferences. To improve these records, nine paleo-glaciers in the Venezuelan Andes were reconstructed based on field observations, aerial photographs, satellite imagery and high-resolution digital topographic data. Paleo-glacier equilibrium-line altitudes (ELAs) were estimated using the accumulation-area ratio (AAR) and the area-altitude balance ratio (AABR) methods. During the local LGM in Venezuela (∼ 22,750 to 19,960 cal yr BP), ELAs were ∼ 850 to 1420 m lower than present. Local LGM temperatures were are at least 8.8 ± 2°C cooler than today based on a combined energy and mass-balance equation to account for an ELA lowering. This is greater than estimates using an atmospheric lapse rate calculation, which yields a value of 6.4 ± 1°C cooler. The paleo-glacial data from the Venezuelan Andes support other published records that indicate the northern tropics experienced a greater ELA lowering and possibly a greater cooling than the Southern Hemisphere tropics during the LGM.


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Corresponding author. Fax: +1 412 624 3914. E-mail address: (N.D. Stansell).


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