Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
Research article
22 Nov 2011
Research article |  | 22 Nov 2011

Glacier changes in the Pascua-Lama region, Chilean Andes (29° S): recent mass balance and 50 yr surface area variations

A. Rabatel, H. Castebrunet, V. Favier, L. Nicholson, and C. Kinnard

Abstract. Since 2003, a monitoring program has been conducted on several glaciers and glacierets in the Pascua-Lama region of the Chilean Andes (29° S/70° W; 5000 m a.s.l.), permitting the study of glaciological processes on ice bodies in a subtropical, arid, high-elevation area where no measurements were previously available. In this paper we present: (1) six years of glaciological surface mass balance measurements from four ice bodies in the area, including a discussion of the nature of the studied glaciers and glacierets and characterization of the importance of winter mass balance to annual mass balance variability; and (2) changes in surface area of twenty ice bodies in the region since 1955, reconstructed from aerial photographs and satellite images, which shows that the total glaciated surface area reduced by ~29% between 1955 and 2007, and that the rate of surface area shrinkage increased in the late 20th century. Based on these datasets we present a first interpretation of glacier changes in relation with climatic parameters at both local and regional scales.