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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.

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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 <>


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