Quaternary Glaciations in the Lago Pueyrredón Valley, Argentina
Hein, Andrew S.
This thesis develops a better knowledge of the extent and timing of glaciations in southern Argentina throughout the Quaternary. It provides a detailed understanding of successive major glacial outlet lobes in the Lago Pueyrredón valley. The glacial and glaciofluvial deposits in the valley, as elsewhere in the region, are extremely well-preserved and reflect punctuated glacial advances between ~ 1.1 Ma and ~ 17 ka. Several intermediate glaciations are undated, constrained by the limited time frame of radiocarbon age dating, the limited potential volcanic sites for K-Ar or 40Ar/39Ar age dating, and erosion and exhumation problems associated with cosmogenic-nuclide surface exposure ages on moraines. This thesis provides a new chronology for the mid-Quaternary glaciations based on methodological advances in cosmogenic-nuclide surface exposure age dating. This is done by deriving ages from glacial outwash terrace sediment and demonstrating their reliability. The work shows that for younger (i.e., last glacial) moraines, well-constrained ages can be derived from the common-practice of dating large boulders on the moraine surface. However, on older moraines, the ages so-derived become considerably scattered. This is interpreted to be caused primarily by boulder exhumation as a consequence of moraine erosion, resulting in shorter residence of some boulders at the surface relative to the moraine formation date. By contrast, glacial outwash surfaces in this area, if carefully chosen, can be shown to have undergone little aggradation or erosion, and thus have had long and consistent surface exposure since formation. Provided these surfaces can be stratigraphically linked with the glacial limits, they can provide good surface exposure ages. This has been convincingly confirmed in one location by a sequence of ages obtained from a 10Be concentration depth-profile which demonstrate the surface stability and lack of inherited nuclides. Using these methods, cosmogenic 10Be and 26Al surface exposure ages indicate successive major advances occurred at ~ 1.2 Ma, ~ 600 ka, ~ 260 ka and ~27 – 17.5 ka. These are correlated with global marine and ice core records.