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A Younger Dryas Icecap in the Equatorial Andes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Chalmers M. Clapperton
Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, Scotland, United Kingdom
Minard Hall
Instituto Geofisico, Escuela Politecnica Nacional, Apartado, 2759, Quito, Ecuador
Patricia Mothes
Instituto Geofisico, Escuela Politecnica Nacional, Apartado, 2759, Quito, Ecuador
Malcolm J. Hole
Department of Geology & Petroleum Geology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, Scotland, United Kingdom
John W. Still
Department of Geology & Petroleum Geology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, Scotland, United Kingdom
Karin F. Helmens
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, P.O. Box 122, 96101, Rovaniemi, Finland
Peter Kuhry
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, P.O. Box 122, 96101, Rovaniemi, Finland
Alastair M.D. Gemmell
Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, Scotland, United Kingdom


Morphologic and stratigraphic evidence shows that a late-glacial ice cap existed on part of the Eastern Cordillera of Ecuador (Lat. 0° 20′ S) on ground with a mean elevation of 4200 m where none exists now. An outlet glacier from an ca. 800 km2ice cap terminated at 3850 m altitude in the Papallacta valley on the eastern side of the plateau. Radiocarbon dates show that moraines formed by this advance were ice-free by 13,20014C yr B.P. Tephras and the age of organic deposits at the plateau edge indicate ice-free conditions before 11,80014C yr B.P. This interval was followed by the expansion of an ca. 140 km2ice cap that discharged glaciers into adjacent valleys where terminal moraines were built at 3950 m altitude. AMS and conventional radiocarbon dates from macrofossils, peat, and gyttja above and below till of the readvance indicate that the ice cap formed between ca. 11,000 and 10,00014C yr B.P. and was thus coeval with the European Younger Dryas event. The ice cap developed in response to a surface temperature cooling of at least 3°C in the tropical Andes, a finding that is consistent with a coupled equatorial/high latitude North Atlantic climate system operating at the late-glacial/Holocene transition. These results are further evidence that Younger Dryas cooling may have been a global event.

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University of Washington

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