The snowpack is an important source of water for many Andean communities. Because of its importance, elemental and mineralogical composition analysis of the Andean snow is a worthwhile effort. In this study, we conducted a chemical composition analysis (major and trace elements, mineralogy, and chemical enrichment) of surface snow sampled at 21 sites across a transect of about 2,500 km in the Chilean Andes (18–41°S). Our results enabled us to identify five depositional environments: (i) sites 1–3 (in the Atacama Desert, 18–26°S) with relatively high concentrations of metals, high abundance of quartz and low presence of arsenates, (ii) sites 4–8 (in northern Chile, 29–32°S) with relatively high abundance of quartz and low presence of metals and arsenates, (iii) sites 9–12 (in central Chile, 33–35°S) with anthropogenic enrichment of metals, relatively high values of quartz and low abundance of arsenates, (iv) sites 13–14 (also in central Chile, 35–37°S) with relatively high values of quartz and low presence of metals and arsenates, and v) sites 15–21 (in southern Chile, 37–41°S) with relatively high abundance of arsenates and low presence of metals and quartz. We found significant anthropogenic enrichment at sites close to Santiago (a major city of 6 million inhabitants) and in the Atacama Desert (that hosts several major copper mines).
ASJC Scopus subject areas