Modern rates of glacial sediment accumulation along a 15° S-N transect in fjords from the Antarctic Peninsula to southern Chile



[1] Rates of glacial erosion in temperate climates rank among the highest worldwide, and the sedimentary products of such erosion record climatic and tectonic signals in many glaciated settings, as well as temporal changes in glacier behavior. Glacial sediment yields are expected to decrease with increasing latitude because decreased temperature and meltwater production reduce glacial sliding, erosion, and sediment transfer; however, this expectation lacks a solid supportive database. Herein we present modern 210Pb-derived sediment accumulation rates on decadal to century time scales for 12 fjords spanning 15° of latitude from the Antarctic Peninsula to southern Chile and interpret the results in light of glacimarine sediment accumulation worldwide. 210Pb records from the Antarctic Peninsula show surprisingly steady sediment accumulation throughout the past century at rates of 1–7 mm yr−1, despite rapid warming and glacial retreat. Cores from the South Shetland Islands reveal accelerated sediment accumulation over the past few decades, likely due to changes in the thermal state of the glaciers in this region, which straddles the boundary between subpolar and temperate conditions. In Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, sediment accumulates faster (11–24 mm yr−1), and previously collected seismic profiles show that rates reach meters per year close to the glacier termini. This increase in sediment accumulation rates with decreasing latitude reflects the gradient from subpolar to temperate climates and is consistent with glacial erosion being much faster in the temperate climate of southern Chile than in the polar climate of the Antarctic Peninsula.