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Keywords:

  • tropics;
  • glacier;
  • snowline;
  • equilibrium-line-altitude;
  • last glacial maximum

Abstract

Deposits preserved on peaks in the southern Peruvian Andes are evidence for past glacial fluctuations and, therefore, serve as a record of both the timing and magnitude of past climate change. Moraines corresponding to the last major expansion of ice on Nevado Coropuna date to 20-25 ka, during the last glacial maximum. We reconstructed the snowline at Coropuna for this period using a combined geomorphic-numeric approach to provide a first-order estimate of the magnitude of late-Pleistocene climate change. Our reconstructions show that snowline was approximately 550-770 m lower during the last glacial maximum than during the late Holocene maximum, which ended in the 19th century, and ∼750 m lower than today. While these values are similar to data from nearby Nevado Solimana, reconstructions from the neighbouring peak of Nevado Firura reveal a smaller snowline depression, suggesting the glacial response to climate forcing in the tropics is strongly influenced by non-climatic factors. These data constitute some of the first directly dated palaeo-snowline data from the arid tropics and suggest that the magnitude of the last glaciation in at least parts of the tropical Andes was similar to late-Pleistocene events at higher latitudes. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.