Sudden glacier advances in the Cachapoal Valley, Southern Central Andes of Chile (34°S)

Lasafam Iturrizaga, Reynaldo Charrier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Throughout the Andes Mountains of South America, a general trend of glacier shrinkage has taken place in modern times. However, a few glaciers have undergone considerable temporally advances or even surged during the mid-19th to 20th century CE. These valley glaciers are mainly located in the Central Andes of Chile and Argentina. The research presented here focuses on the changes of the Cachapoal Glacier in the Southern Central Andes of Chile. Spectacular glacier advances occurred at least three times in historical times, which lead to river blockages and successive lake outburst floods. The glacier advances were reconstructed with a multi-method approach including geomorphological mapping, 10Be cosmogenic exposure dating of moraines, multi-temporal comparison of historical and recent photographs and paintings as well as the interpretation of aerial photographs and satellite images and the analysis of early travel reports. The article highlights the diversity of environmental conditions for the formation of glaciers in terms of the topographical and climatic setting and the resulting distinct glacier behavior along the Andes Mountains. It is argued for the Cachapoal Glacier that the glacier advances are intrinsic to the glacier type and may not be necessarily climate-dependent. This is characteristic for avalanche-fed glaciers of which the glacier dynamic is strongly controlled by the topographic setting and sudden inputs of ice and rock avalanches as well as by the specific debris transfer system and hydrological drainage pattern. At the regional level, the fluctuations of the Cachapoal Glacier are compared with glaciers of neighboring mountain ranges in the Southern Central Andes and at the global scale with those of the Karakoram Mountains in High Asia with a similar dynamic glacier behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102787
JournalJournal of South American Earth Sciences
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Cachapoal Glacier
  • Central Andes
  • Chile
  • Debris-covered glaciers
  • Glacier lake outbursts
  • Glacier surges
  • Topography-controlled glacier advances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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