Skip to main content

Surface velocity fluctuations for Glaciar Universidad, central Chile, between 1967 and 2015


For the Andes Cordillera, where observed mass-balance records are sparse, long-term glacier velocity measurements potentially represent a useful tool for assessing glacier health. Utilising manual and automatic feature-tracking techniques applied to Corona, Landsat and ASTER satellite imagery, this paper presents surface velocity fluctuations for Glaciar Universidad between 1967 and 1969, and 1985 and 2015, the longest such time series available for the Andes Cordillera, outside Patagonia. This time series reveals an increase in the surface velocities of the main glacier trunk between 1967 and 1987 (~90%) followed by a deceleration between 1987 and 2015 (~80%), with ice velocities observed between 2014 and 2015 possibly representing a 48 a low. In response to the surface velocity fluctuations, the glacier front advanced between 1985 and 1992 (cumulative change of 137 ± 14 m), and again to a lesser magnitude during the 1996–98 and 2004–08 periods. Although having exhibited possible surge behaviour during the 1940s, the synchrony of the glacier changes presented for Glaciar Universidad with those reported for nearby glaciers, suggests that this glacier is responding to climatic trends. If the above scenario is true, the results indicate a general pattern of increasingly negative glacier mass-balance conditions since the late 1980s.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Surface velocity fluctuations for Glaciar Universidad, central Chile, between 1967 and 2015
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Surface velocity fluctuations for Glaciar Universidad, central Chile, between 1967 and 2015
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Surface velocity fluctuations for Glaciar Universidad, central Chile, between 1967 and 2015
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Ryan Wilson <>
Hide All
Benn, DI, Warren, CR and Mottram, RH (2007) Calving processes and the dynamics of calving glaciers. Earth-Sci. Rev., 82, 143179 (doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2007.02.002)
Björnsson, H (1998) Hydrological characteristics of the drainage system beneath a surging glacier. Nature, 395, 771774 (doi: 10.1038/27384)
Bown, F, Rivera, A and Acuña, C (2008) Recent glacier variations at the Aconcagua basin, central Chilean Andes. Ann. Glaciol., 48, 4348 (doi:
Casassa, G and 6 others (2007) Current status of Andean glaciers. Global Planet. Change, 59, 19 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7-81-2013)
Copland, L and 7 others (2011) Expanded and recently increased glacier surging in the Karakorum. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 43, 50135516 (doi:
Cuffey, KM and Paterson, WS (2010) The physics of glaciers, 4th edn. Elsevier, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, 693 pp
Davies, BJ and Glasser, NF (2012) Accelerating shrinkage of Patagonian glaciers from the Little Ice Age (~1870) to 2011. J. Glaciol., 58(212), 10631084 (doi:
Dunse, T and 5 others (2015) Glacier-surge mechanisms promoted by hydro-thermodynamic feedback to summer melt. Cryosphere, 9, 197215 (doi: 10.5194/tc-9-197-2015)
Espizua, LE, Pitte, P and Ferri Hidalgo, L (2008) Horcones Inferior glacier surge. In Fluctuations of Glaciers for 2000–2005. Vol. IX. Prepared by World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) ICSU (FAGS)-IUGG (IACS)-UNEP-UNESCO-WMO, 4142
Falvey, M and Garreaud, RD (2009) Regional cooling in a warming period: recent temperature trends in the Southeast Pacific and along the west coast of subtropical South America (1979–2006). J. Geophys. Res., 114, D04102 (doi: 10.1029/2008JD010519)
Frezzotti, M, Capra, A and Vittuari, L (1998) Comparison between glacier velocities inferred from GPS and sequential satellite images. Ann. Glaciol., 27, 5460
Gacitúa, G and 5 others (2015) 50 MHz helicopter-borne radar data for deternimnation of glacier thermal regime in the central Chilean Andes. Ann. Glaciol., 56(70), 193201 (doi: 10.3189/2015AoG70A953)
Galiatsatos, N, Donoghue, DNM and Philip, G (2008) High resolution elevation data derived from stereoscopic CORONA imagery with minimal ground control: an approach using IKONOS and SRTM data. Photogramm. Eng. Remote Sens., 74, 10931106 (doi:
Gardner, AS and 15 others (2013) Reconciled estimate of glacier contributions to sea level rise: 2003 to 2009. Science, 340(6134), 852857 (doi: 10.1126/science.1234532)
Georges, C (2004) The 20th century glacier fluctuations in the tropical Cordillera Blanca, Peru. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 36, 100107 (doi: 10.1657/1523-0430(2004)036[0100:TGFITT]2.0.CO;2)
Goodsell, B, Hambrey, MJ and Glasser, NF (2002) Formation of band ogives and associated structures at Bas Glacier d'Arolla, Valais, Switzerland. J. Glaciol., 48(161), 287300 (doi:
Hall, DK, Bayr, KJ, Schöner, W, Bindschadler, RA and Chien, JYL (2003) Consideration of the errors inherent in mapping historical glacier positions in Austria from ground and space (1893–2001). Remote Sens. Environ., 86, 566577 (doi: 10.1016/S0034-4257(03)00134-2)
Heid, T (2011) Deriving glacier surface velocities from repeat optical images . (PhD thesis, University of Oslo, Norway)
Heid, T and Kääb, A (2012a) Repeat optical satellite images reveal widespread and long term decrease in land-terminating glacier speeds. Cryosphere, 6, 467478 (doi: 10.5194/tc-6-467-2012)
Heid, T and Kääb, A (2012b) Evaluation of existing image matching methods for deriving glacier surface displacements globally from optical satellite imagery. Remote Sens. Environ., 118, 339355 (doi: 10-1016/j.rse.2011.11.024)
Jobarb, S and Dzokoski, M (2006) Evolution of glacier flow and drainage during the ablation season. J. Hydrol, 330(3–4), 663–71 (doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2006.04.031)
Kääb, A (2005) Remote sensing of mountain glaciers and permafrost creep. Schriftenreihe Physische Geographie, Department of Geography, Zurich, 48, 266 pages
Kääb, A and Volmer, M (2000) Surface geometry, thickness changes and flow fields on creeping mountain permafrost: automatic extraction by digital image analysis. Permafrost. Periglacial Processes, 11, 315326 (doi: 10.1002/1099-1530(200012)11:4<315::AID-PPP365>3.0.CO;2-J)
Leighton, FB (1951) Ogives of the East Twin Glacier, Alaska: their nature and origin. J. Geol., 39(132), 373384
Lliboutry, L (1958) Studies of the shrinkage after a sudden advance, blue bands and wave ogives on Glaciar Universidad (central Chilean Andes). J. Glaciol., 3(24), 261270.
Llorens, R and Leiva, JC (1995) Glaciological studies in the high Central Andes using digital processing of satellite images. Mountain Res. Dev., 15(4), 323330 (doi: 10.2307/3673808)
Llorens, R and Leiva, JC (2000) Recent glacier fluctuations in the Southern Andes. In Smolka, PP and Volkheimer, W eds. Southern hemisphere Paleo-and Neoclimates, key sites, methods, data and models. Springer, Berlin, 143149
Llorens, RE (2002) Glacier advances or glacier retreats in the Argentine Central Andes. In Trombotto, D and Villalba, R eds. IANIGLA, 30 years of basic and applied research on environmental sciences. Zeta Editores, Mendoza, Argentina, 177180
López-Moreno, JI and 9 others (2014) Recent glacier retreat and climate trends in Cordillera Huaytapallana, Peru. Global. Planet. Change, 112, 111 (doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2013.10.010)
Malmros, JK, Mernild, SH, Wilson, R, Yde, JC and Fensholt, R (2016) Glacier area changes in the central Chilean and Argentinean Andes 1955–2013/14. J. Glaciol., 62(232), 391401 (doi: 10.1017/jog.2016.43)
Masiokas, MH, Villalba, R, Luckman, BH, Le Quesne, C and Carlos Aravena, J (2006) Snowpack variations in the Central Andes of Argentina and Chile, 1951–2005: large-scale atmospheric influences and implications for water resources in the region. J. Climate, 19, 63346352 (doi:
Masiokas, MH and 5 others (2008) 20th-century glacier recession and regional hydroclimatic changes in northwestern Patagonia. Global. Planet. Change, 60, 85100 (doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2006.07.031)
Masiokas, MH and 5 others (2009) Glacier fluctuations in extratropical South America during the past 1000 years. Palaeogeogr. Palaeocl., 281, 242268 (doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2009.08.006)
Masiokas, MH and 11 others (2015) Reconstructing glacier mass balances in the Central Andes of Chile and Argentina using local and regional hydro-climatic data. Cryo. Disc., 9, 49494980 (doi: 10.5194/tcd-9-4949-2015)
Meier, MF and Post, A (1969) What are glacier surges? Can. J. Earth Sci., 6(4), 807817
Melvold, T and Hagen, JO (1998) Evolution of a surge-type glacier in its quiescent phase: Kongsvegen, Spitsbergen, 1964–95. J. Glaciol, 44, 394404
Mernild, SH, Lipscomb, WH, Bahr, DB, Radić, V and Zemp, M (2013a) Global glacier retreat: a revised assessment of committed mass losses and sampling uncertainties. Cryosphere, 7, 15651577 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7-1565-2013)
Mernild, SH and 7 others (2013b) Volume and velocity changes at Mittivakkat Gletscher, Southeast Greenland, 1994–2012. J. Glaciol, 59(216), 660670 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG13J017)
Mernild, SH and 6 others (2015) Mass loss and imbalance of glaciers along the Andes Cordillera to the sub-Antarctic islands. Global. Planet. Change, 133, 109119 (doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2015.08.009)
Mernild, SH and 5 others (2016) The Andes Cordillera. part I: snow distribution, properties, and trends (1979–2014). Int. J. Climatol., (doi: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4929.3929)
Mouginot, J and Rignot, E (2015) Ice motion of the Patagonian Icefields of South America: 1984–2014. Geophys. Res. Lett., 42(5), 14411449 (doi: 10.1002/2014GL062661)
Muto, M and Furuya, M (2013) Surface velocities and ice-front positions of eight major glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, South America, from 2002 to 2011. Remote Sens. Environ., 139, 5059 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2013.07.034)
Nye, JF (1958) A theory of wave formation in glaciers (Cambridge Austerdals-bre Expedition). International Association of Scientific Hydrology Publication 47 (Symposium at Chamonix 1958 – Physics of the Movement of the Ice), 139154
Oerlemans, J (2008) Minimal glacier models. Utrecht University, Igitur.
Paterson, WSB (1994) The physics of glaciers, 3rd edn. Elsevier, Oxford
Paul, F and Mölg, N (2014) Hasty retreat of glaciers in northern Patagonia from 1985 to 2011. J. Glaciol., 60(224), 10331043 (doi: 10.3189/2014joG14j104)
Pellicciotti, F, Burlando, P and Van Vliet, K (2007) Recent trends in precipitation and streamflow in the Aconcagua River basin, central Chile. In Glacier Mass Balance Changes and Meltwater Discharge, Selected Papers from Sessions at the IAHS Assembly in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, 2005, IAHS Publication 318
Posamentier, HW (1978) Thoughts on ogive formation. J. Glaciol., 20(82), 218220
Post, A, O'Neel, R, Motyka, R and Streveler, G (2011) A complex relationship between calving glaciers and climate. Eos Trans. Am. Geophys. Union, 92, 305312 (doi: 10.1029/2011EO370001)
Quintana, JM (2000) The drought in Chile and la Niña. Drought Network News, 12, 36
Quintana, JM (2004) Factors affecting Central Chile rainfall variations at interdecadal scales (in Spanish). (MS thesis, Departamento de Geofìsoca, Universidad de Chile, Lincoln 88 pp)
Rabatel, A, Castebrunet, H, Favier, V, Nicholson, L and Kinnard, C (2011) Glacier changes in the Pascua-Lama region, Chilean Andes (29°S): recent mass balance and 50 yr surface area variations. Cryosphere, 5, 10291041 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5-1029-2011)
Rabatel, A and 27 others (2013) Current state of glaciers in the tropical Andes: a multi-century perspective on glacier evolution and climate change. Cryosphere, 7, 81102 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7-81-2013)
Raymond, CF (1987) How do glaciers surge? A review. J. Geophys. Res., 92(B9), 91219134 (doi: 10.1029/JB092iB09p09121)
Redpath, TAN, Sirguey, P, Fitzsimons, SJ and Kääb, A (2013) Accuracy assessment for mapping glacier flow velocity and detecting flow dynamics from ASTER satellite imagery: Tasman Glacier, New Zealand. Remote Sens. Environ., 133, 90101 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2013.02.008)
Rignot, E, Rivera, A and Casassa, G (2003) Contribution of the Patagonia Icefields of South America to Sea Level Rise. Science, 302(5644), 434437 (doi: 10.1126/science.1087393)
Rivera, A, Benham, T, Casassa, G, Bamber, J and Dowdeswell, JA (2007) Ice elevation and areal changes of glaciers from the Northern Patagonia Icefield, Chile. Global. Planet. Change, 59, 126137 (doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2006.11.037)
Rivera, A, Koppes, M, Bravo, C and Aravena, JC (2012) Little Ice Age advance and retreat of Glaciar Jorge Montt, Chilean Patagonia. Clim. Past, 8, 403414 (doi: 10.5194/cp-8-403-2012)
Sakakibara, D and Sugiyama, S (2014) Ice-front variations and speed changes of calving glaciers in the Southern Patagonia Icefield. J. Geophys Res-Sol. Earth, 119, 25412554 (doi: 10.1002/2014JF003148)
Sevestre, H, Benn, DI, Hulton, NRJ and Bælum, K (2015) Thermal structure of Svalbard glaciers and implications for thermal switch models of glacier surging. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf, 120, 22202236 (doi: 10.1002/2015JF003517)
Storey, J, Choate, M and Lee, K (2014) Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager on-orbit geometric calibration and performance. Remote Sens., 6, 1112711152 (doi: 10.3390/rs61111127)
Sundal, AV and 5 others (2011) Melt-induced speed-up of Greenland icesheet offset by efficient subglacial drainage. Nature, 469(7331), 521524 (doi: 10.1038/nature09740)
Unger, C, Espizua, LE and Bottero, R (2000) Untersuchung von Gletscherständen im Tal des Rio Mendoza (Zentralargentinische Andes) – Kartierung eines Surge-Vorstosses des Horcones Inferior. Z. Fr. Gletsch. Glazial., 36(1), 151157
Vincent, C, Soruco, A, Six, D and Le Meur, E (2009) Glacier thickening and decay analysis from 50 years of glaciological observations performed on Glacier d'Argentière, Mont Blanc area, France. Ann. Glaciol., 50, 7379 (doi: 10.3189/172756409787769500)
WGMS (2013) Glacier mass balance bulletin No. 12 (2010–2011). In Zemp, M and 6 others eds. ICSU (WDS)/IUGG (IACS)/UNEP/UNESCO/WMO, World Glacier Monitoring Service, Zurich, Switzerland, 106 pp (doi: 10.5904/wgms-fog-201311)
White, A and Copland, L (2015) Decadal-scale variations in glacier area changes across the Southern Patagonian Icefield since the 1970s. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 47(1), 147167 (doi: 10.1657/AAAR0013 - 102.)
Williams, RS Jr, Hall, DK, Sigurdsson, O and Chien, JYL (1997) Comparison of satellite-derived with ground-based measurements of the fluctuations of the margins of Vatnajökull, Iceland. Ann. Glaciol., 24, 7280
Willis, MJ, Melkonian, AK, Pritchard, ME and Ramage, JM (2012) Ice loss rates at the Northern Patagonian Icefield derived using a decade of satellite remote sensing. Remote Sens. Environ, 117, 184198 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2011.09.017)
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 33
Total number of PDF views: 241 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 262 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.