December 29, 2014

Roncagli Glacier Retreat, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Posted by Mauri Pelto

The Cordillera Darwin in Tierra Del Fuego, Chile is a remote area that is notorious for stormy, cloudy weather that makes for only a few good satellite images. Roncagli(Alemania) Glacier is the focus of this post and is an update to a previous post. The glacier has a terminus adjacent to the Beagle Channe(BC) and a secondary terminus in Lago Martinic (LM), 5 km upglacier. Velocity profiles by Melkonian et al (2013) indicate the highest velocities directed toward the LM terminus, making this the primary terminus. They also found that the glacier thinned by 5-10 m along most of its length from 2000-2011. Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1997 to 2014.

Roncagli ge
Googel Earth image
In 1997 the BC terminus at the pink arrow is at a narrowing of the valley. The LM terminus is at the yellow arrow with two primary glacier branches encircling the nunatak at the red arrow. In 2000 the terminus positions are relatively unchanged with the LM terminus actively releasing icebergs into Lago Martinic. Upglacier a single area of bedrock is emergent through the glacier, purple arrow. In 2001 the BC terminus remains unchanged, the water level in LM has declined exposing more bare rock surfaces around the LM terminus. By 2008 the LM terminus has separated, both still ending in the lake, the lake again is at a full stage on the date of the imagery. The lake experienced periodic filling and draining episodes during the 1997-2008 period. There are now two upglacier areas with exposed bedrock now. By 2014 the BC terminus has retreated 1 km along the southeastern margin and 200 m along the northwest side. This retreat from the pinning point that restricted calving at the pink arrow, suggests further retreat will occur in the near future. Lago Martinic has largely drained. The LM terminus has separated into two tongues and the former nunatak is no longer surrounded by glacier ice, red arrow. The retreat at LM terminus is 1500 m on the west side, orange arrow, and 800-1000 m on the east side. Upglacier both areas of bedrock that are emergent are expanding, purple arrows, indicating the thinning observed by Melkonian et al. (2013). The continued upglacier thinning indicates reduced flux to the terminus and continued retreat. The degree to which Lago Martinic can refill is uncertain, MODIS imagery from late 2014 shows the lake is still not filled. I have not seen imagery indicating even a nearly full lake in the 2011-2014 period. The rate of retreat is less than on Marinelli Glacier to the north or Glaciar Steffen.
racongli 1997
1997 Landsat image
racongli 2000
2000 Landsat image
racongli 2001
2001 Landsat image

roncagli 2008
2008 Landsat image
racongli 2014
2014 Landsat image