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Glacial history of Southernmost South America 1

  • J.H. Mercer (a1)

In southernmost South America, an incomplete radiometrically dated glacial chronology has been obtained by K–Ar dating for the interval 3.5-1 MY ago, and a more detailed chronology by C-14 dating for the last 25,000 years, with some older minimal ages. The first major glaciation was about 3.5 MY ago during the middle Pliocene. Little is yet known about glacial fluctuations during the interval 3.5-2.1 MY ago. Between 2.1 and 1 MY ago many glaciations occurred, probably including the greatest of late Cenozoic time which took place after 1.2 MY and, according to inconclusive evidence, before 1 MY ago. The Patagonian Gravel in its type area is mid-Pliocene to early Pleistocene glacial outwash that accumulated from the first to the greatest glaciations. During the late Pleistocene several glaciations occurred, but only the most recent has been radiometrically dated. During the last glaciation the glaciers were most extensive before 56,000 BP. Successively smaller advances that culminated about 19,500 BP and, probably, about 13,000 BP were separated by an interstade when glaciers shrank by more than half. The glaciers receded rapidly after 13,000 BP and were within their present borders by 11,000 BP; they remained so during the European Younger Dryas Stade 11,000-10,000 BP. Neoglacial regional readvances culminated 4600-4200 BP, probably 2700-2000 BP, and during the last three centuries; most glaciers reached their Neoglacial maxima during the first episode. Between readvances, the glaciers shrank within their present borders.

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Contribution No. 302 of the Institute of Polar Studies, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 43210.

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