September 17, 2015

Fraenkel Glacier Retreat, Patagonia, Chile

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Fraenkel Glacier drains the west side of the Northern Patagonia Ice Cap (NPI) just south of Glaciar San Quintin. The retreat of this glacier in the last 30 years mirrors that of Gualas and Reichert Glacier, which also terminate in an expanding proglacial lake.   Davies and Glasser (2012) work, had an excellent Figure indicating two periods of fastest recession since 1870, are 1975-1986 and 2001-2011 for NPI glaciers.  They noted the loss was 0.07% from 1870-1986, 0.14% annually from 1986-2001 and 0.22% annually from 2001-2011. Willis et al (2011) observed that the thinning rate of NPI glaciers below the equilibrium line has increased substantially from 2000-2012. On Fraenkel Glacier they observed a 2.4 m per year thinning in the ablation zone. Here we examine the changes in this glacier from 1987 to 2015 using Landsat Image.

fraenkel ge

In 1987 the glacier terminus was at the end of a peninsula red arrow and the proglacial lake it terminates in is 2 km long. There is a medial moraine on the glacier at the yellow arrow and the glacier covers the terrain below an icefall at the purple arrow. By 2000 at the purple arrow bedrock is appearing from the base of the glacier. The medial moraine at yellow arrow is little changed. The terminus has retreated 800 m. By 2015 the area around the purple arrow has been deglaciated emphasizing the amount of thinning in the ablation zone even well upglacier of the terminus. At the yellow arrow the medial moraine has been replaced by a wide rock rib separating the glacier from a former tributary. The main terminus is at the pink arrow, indicating a retreat of 1.4 km since 1987. The retreat rate of 50 meters per years though large is less than on Reichert Glacier or Gualas Glacier.  Mouginot and Rignot (2014) observe that Fraenkel Glacier does not have the high velocity of the neighboring Benito and San Quintin Glacier or the Gualas and Reichert Glacier, this leads to the potential for greater mass loss of the ablation zone and even faster retreat.

fraenkel Glacier 1987
Fraenkel Glacier Landsat Image 1987
fraenkel glacier 2000
Fraenkel Glacier Landsat Image 2000

fraenkel glacier 2015
Fraenkel Glacier Landsat Image 2015