November 3, 2013

Marconi Glacier Retreat, Patagonia, Argentina

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Marconi Glacier, Argentina is one of the more common routes onto the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap (SPI) via Marconi Pass. The glacier is not fed by the ice cap itself, unlike the Glaciar Chico just to the north. The glacier drains into Electrico Lake and Rio Electrico. The good news is despite the name Rio Electrico will not be developed, since it is in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina. marconi ge Here we examine changes in the glacier observed in Landsat imagery from 1986 to 2012. In 1986 the glacier ends in the valley bottom, without a proglacial lake km from Electrico Lake, yellow arrow. Two neighboring glaciers one ending in a lake, red arrow and one on the valley wall pink arrow are noted. By 2002 Marconi Glacier has retreated 450-500 m exposing a new lake that it terminates in. The snowline blue arrows is at 1100 m. The glacier on the valley wall has retreated leading to a new lake forming, pink arrow. By 2011 Marconi Glacier’s retreat is 800 m since 1986 and it is still ending in the new expanding proglacial lake. The snowline is again close to 1100 m, though this is not the end of the summer. The glacier terminating at the red arrow has now retreated from the lake it ended in. In 2012 Marconi Glacier appears to be close to exiting from the proglacial lake. There is an excellent image of the terminus of the glacier in 2012 from useless conquests, a blog I find useful, that indicates the tenuous connection to the lake. Overall retreat from 1986 to 2012 is 800-850 m.

The pattern of retreat is consistent between these glaciers and the region as noted by Davies and Glasser (2012), who note a 0.15-0.20% area loss per year for the Marconi Glacier and its neighbors that are not part of the main SPI. Davies and Glasser (2012) further note that overall annual rates of shrinkage were far faster from 2001-2011 than from 1870-1986 or 1986-2001. The Argentine Institute of Snow Research, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences has developed maps of the retreat of many of the glaciers from Little Ice Age moraines of SPI that are in Argentina. Each of these indicates a pattern of retreat like Marconi Glacier. Onelli Glacier and Seco Glaciers are other glaciers in the area that retreating.
marconi 1986

1986 Landsat image

marconi 2002
2002 Landsat image

marconi 2011a
2011 Landsat image

marconi 2012
2012 Landsat image

marconi terminus 2010
2010 Google Earth image