Evidence for rapid ice flow and proglacial lake evolution around the central Strait of Magellan region, southernmost Patagonia

Harold Lovell, Chris R. Stokes, Michael J. Bentley, Douglas I. Benn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper presents a detailed palaeoglaciological reconstruction of ice sheet dynamics in the Seno Skyring, Seno Otway and Strait of Magellan region of the former Patagonian Ice Sheet, with a particular focus on previously hypothesised zones of rapid ice flow and the evolution of proglacial lakes. Geomorphological mapping from a combination of satellite imagery and oblique and vertical aerial photographs reveals a variety of glacial landforms that are grouped into several discrete flow-sets and associated ice margin positions. The most distinct features are represented by flow-sets of highly elongate streamlined glacial lineations on both sides of the Strait of Magellan. Based on the shape and dimensions of the flow-sets and their abrupt lateral margins, a transverse and longitudinal variation in glacial lineation length and elongation ratio, and the reported presence of a potentially deformable bed and thrust moraines, the flow-sets are interpreted as zones of rapid ice flow within the Otway and Magellan lobes. We hypothesise that this provides evidence for contemporaneous surge-like advances within the lobes, which may explain the asymmetry in the lobate margin positions on either side of the strait. The mechanisms that initiated rapid flow are unclear, but are likely to have been influenced by internal factors such as a change in thermal/hydrological conditions at the bed. The topography of the region suggests ice-dammed lakes would have formed as the ice lobes retreated. The westernmost of the former lakes, Lake Skyring, is delimited by a series of palaeo-shorelines surrounding the present-day lake Laguna Blanca and we reconstruct lake evolution based on manipulation of a digital elevation model. The size and orientation of meltwater channels and a large outwash plain indicate that Lake Skyring drained eastwards towards the Strait of Magellan, probably quite rapidly. We conclude that the potential for quasi-independent surge-like behaviour within adjacent lobes raises the possibility that, during climate-driven ice expansion, some advances in this region may have been partly controlled by secondary internal feedback mechanisms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)625-638
    JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
    Issue number6
    Early online date14 Jun 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


    • rapid ice flow
    • proglacial lakes
    • glacial geomorphology
    • Strait of Magellan
    • Patagonia


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