High-resolution chronology for deglaciation of the Patagonian Ice Sheet at Lago Buenos Aires (46.5°S) revealed through varve chronology and Bayesian age modelling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glaciolacustrine varves offer the potential to construct continuous, annually-resolved chronologies for ice-sheet deglaciation, and improved understanding of glacier retreat dynamics. This paper investigates laminated glaciolacustrine sediments deposited around the waning margins of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, following the local Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Detailed macro- and microfacies analyses confirm an annual (varve) structure within these sediments. The correlation of annual layers (varves) across five sites in eastern Lago Buenos Aires yields a 994 ± 36 varve-year (vyr) chronology and thickness record. The floating chronology has been anchored to the calendar-year timescale through identification of the Ho tephra (17,378 ± 118 cal a BP) in the varve sequences. Using a Bayesian age model to integrate the new varve chronology with published moraine ages, the onset of deglaciation at 46.5°S is dated to 18,086 ± 214 cal a BP. New age estimates for deglacial events are combined with high-resolution analysis of varve thickness trends, and new lithostratigraphic data on ice-margin position(s), to reconstruct ice-margin retreat rates for the earliest ca. 1000 years of ice-sheet demise. Glacier retreat rates were moderate (5.3–10.3 m yr-1) until 17,322 ± 115 cal a BP, but subsequently accelerated (15.4–18.0 m yr-1). Sustained influxes of ice-rafted debris (IRD) after 17,145 ± 122 cal a BP suggest retreat rates were enhanced by calving after ice contracted into deeper lake waters. Ice persisted in eastern Lago Buenos Aires until at least 16,934 ± 116 cal a BP, after which the glacier started to retreat towards the Patagonian mountains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-339
Number of pages26
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date5 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Deglaciation
  • Palaeoglaciology
  • Patagonia
  • Varve chronology
  • Tephrochronology
  • Bayesian age-modelling

Cite this