Earth Institute Research Projects

Collaborative Research: Timing and Structure of the Last Glacial Maximum and Termination in Southern Peru: Implications for the Role of the Tropics in Climate Change

Lead PI: Dr. Joerg Michael Schaefer , Dr. Gisela Winckler

Unit Affiliation: Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

October 2010 - September 2014
South America ; Peru
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The role of the tropics in climate change has important implications for understanding both orbital-scale and abrupt climate variations. Yet our ability to assess tropical behavior during major climate events, such as the last glacial maximum (LGM), is limited by poor spatial coverage and insufficient control on sample ages. This project will address this problem by developing well-dated records of glacial fluctuations from the LGM through the termination and late-glacial period at Nevados Coropuna and Allinccapac in southern Peru and use these data in numerical simulations of glacier mass balance and local climate. These sites allow an examination of glacier variations, as well as coeval snowline changes, along a transect from the arid (Coropuna) to the humid (Allinccapac) Andes and thus document how major climate events may have been expressed in areas with distinctly different environments. This work consists of detailed mapping of moraines; precise surface-exposure age dating (3He and 10Be) of carefully selected boulders from moraine crests and drift edges; basal 14C ages of bogs interspersed among moraines; calculation of former snowline depression; and modeling of the relationship between glacier mass-balance changes and climate. The work will be an important step towards understanding tropical behavior and will finally allow a thorough testing of the Milankovitch hypothesis of ice ages in the tropics.

OUTCOMES: Evidence from helium isotopes suggests that glaciers in the tropical Andes reached their maximum in concert with global last glacial maximums. These results matched those done with beryllium ten. Found that leaching of crushed andesite in hydrofluoric acid provides a cleaner mineral separate without detrimental effects. One website.