The retreat of glaciers since 1927 in Cordillera Blanca has produced dangerous lakes at the front of many glaciers. All the known data, most of them unpublished, are reviewed. The known aluviones are listed, and those of Chavin, Quebrada Los Cedros and Artesoncocha described in full. In these three cases a breach in the front moraine came from big ice falls into the lake. The protective devices made on the outlets are described, as well as the effects of the big earthquake on 31 May 1970. In the case of Laguna Parón, which keeps its level thanks to infiltrations, the fluctuations of the discharge of the springs as related to the level of the lake from 1955 to 1969 are reported. The projects for lowering the level of Laguna Parón and for emptying Safuna Alta are described. The latter partially emptied in fact by piping after the earthquake, allowing a final solution.
In front of Laguna Parón there is a huge moraine which turns through 90° in the middle of the valley and with a narrow covered glacier on the top. It has been studied by electrical exploration, and using the displacements of 43 marked boulders on the glacier. Assuming a uniform balance on the glacier tongue and semi-elliptical cross-sections, it has been possible to estimate this balance and the glacier thickness. A great amount of the measured velocity comes from the creep of the moraine itself, which seems to be a kind of rock glacier, probably without interstitial ice. It must have taken all the Holocene to be formed. During its complex history a pro-glacial lake must have formed at some time, the rupture of which explains the crooked form.
We explain how preliminary results concerning the internal constitution of the big push moraine at Safuna were obtained in 1967. Cross-sections which were obtained later through electrical and seismic exploration and arduous borings are given. Under the lake Safuna Alta there exists a layer of dead ice which is probably a remnant from an old glacier advance and over which the active glacier slides, but this dead ice does not extend into the push moraine. Since 1950 Safuna Alta has formed, the glacier tongue has lowered by 0.8 m per year on average, and the big push moraine has moved and settled.
The annual balance on the glacier tongue was measured in 1968. It increases by 3.9 m of ice per 100 m in altitude. The discharge of ice near the lake and the annual balance further up-valley allow an estimate of the mean annual balance in the accumulation zone (between 4 850 and 6 020 m) at 2.30 m of water per year. Until now no annual precipitation higher than 1 m/year had been measured in Cordillera Blanca, but this Cordillera includes many meso-climates.
Eight successive moraines are found at Safuna. They are tentatively correlated with the eight existing between Huaraz and Laguna Llaca. Clapperton’s “group 4" was not formed during the 20th, but during the 17th century. His “group 3" is not from A.D. 1750-1800, but is rather 5000 to 7000 years old, according to the offset of Cordillera Blanca great fault.
This contribution is published in full as three papers in Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 18, No. 79.