Middle Pleistocene glaciation in Patagonia dated by cosmogenic-nuclide measurements on outwash gravels

Andy Hein, Nick Hulton, Tibor Dunai, Christoph Schnabel, Michael R. Kaplan, Mark Naylor, Sheng Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The well-preserved glacial record in Argentine Patagonia offers a ~ 1 Ma archive of terrestrial climate extremes in southern South America. These glacial deposits remain largely undated beyond the range of radiocarbon dating at ca. 40 ka. Dating old glacial deposits (> several 105 a) by cosmogenic surface exposure methods is problematic because of the uncertainty in moraine degradation and boulder erosion rates. Here, we show that cobbles on outwash terraces can reliably date ‘old’ glacial deposits in the Lago Pueyrredón valley, 47.5° S, Argentina. Favorable environmental conditions (e.g., aridity and strong winds) have enabled continuous surface exposure of cobbles and preservation of outwash terraces. The data demonstrate that nuclide inheritance is negligible and we therefore use the oldest surface cobbles to date the deposit. 10Be concentrations in outwash cobbles reveal a major glacial advance at ca. 260 ka, concurrent with Marine Isotope Stage 8 (MIS 8) and dust peaks in Antarctic ice cores. A 10Be concentration depth-profile in the outwash terrace supports the age and suggests a low terrace erosion rate of ca. 0.5 mm ka− 1. We compare these data to exposure ages obtained from associated moraines and find that surface boulders underestimate the age of the glaciation by ~ 100 ka; thus the oldest boulders in this area do not date closely moraine deposition. The 10Be concentration in moraine cobbles help to constrain moraine degradation rates. These data together with constraints from measured 26Al/10Be ratios suggest that all moraine boulders were likely exhumed after original deposition. We determine the local Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) occurred at ~ 27–25 ka, consistent with the maximum LGM in other parts of Patagonia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-197
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
Early online date3 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2009

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cosmogenic nuclide surface exposure dating
  • Marine Isotope Stage 8
  • glacial chronology
  • southern South America
  • beryllium-10
  • Last Glacial Maximum


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