Peru - Quelccaya (1974 - 1983)

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The photograph at the beginning of our home page shows the annual layers as they have been preserved in the Quelccaya ice cap located in southern Peru (see map). Quelccaya (photograph) is located at 13o56'S; 70o50'W and has a summit elevation of 5670m a.s.l. Ice cores to bedrock were drilled in 1983 using the first solar-powered drill ( photograph). The cores were dated precisely (± 2 years at A.D. 1500) using a combination of seasonally varying dust concentrations and 18O, visible dust layers deposited each year during the dry season, and identification of ash from the A.D. 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina. Numerous paleoenvironmental records for this remote region have been extracted from these cores as reflected in the selected references below. Data and a slide set are available from the World Data Center - A for Paleoclimatology.

Recently the Quelccaya ice cap has experienced an accelerating rate of retreat as the snowline has risen in response to a marked warming. The 18O record from a core drilled at the summit in 1976 is compared with that from one drilled in 1991 and reveals that the isotopic seasonal signal is no longer preserved and that the isotopic average is enriched by 2o/oo (figure). Terrestrial photography of the Qori Kalis outlet glacier (photograph), the largest on Quelccaya, has allowed Brecher and Thompson (1993) to document its accelerating rate of retreat (figure). A new project to extend the mapping of Qori Kalis to the entire Quelccaya ice cap using satellite derived data is underway as part of Neil Mackinnon's Master's Thesis.

Selected publications:

Thompson, L.G., E. Mosley-Thompson, P. Grootes, and M. Pourchet. 1984. Tropical glaciers: potential for paleoclimatic reconstruction. Journal of Geophysical Research, 89 (D3), 4638-4646.

Thompson, L.G., E. Mosley-Thompson and Benjamin Morales Arnao. 1984. Major El Niño/Southern Oscillation events recorded in stratigraphy of the tropical Quelccaya Ice Cap. Science, 226 (4670), 50-52.

Thompson, L. G., E. Mosley-Thompson, J. F. Bolzan and B. R. Koci. 1985. A 1500 year record of tropical precipitation recorded in ice cores from the Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru. Science, 229(4717), 971-973.

Thompson, L.G. and E. Mosley-Thompson. 1987. Evidence of abrupt climatic change during the last 1,500 years recorded in ice cores from the tropical Quelccaya ice cap, Peru. Abrupt Climatic Change - Evidence and Implications, NATO/NSF Workshop volume. D. Reidel Publishing Co., 99-110.

Shimada, I., C.B. Schaaf, L.G. Thompson and E. Mosley-Thompson. 1991. Cultural impacts of severe droughts in the prehistoric Andes: Application of a 1,500-year ice core precipitation record. World Archaeology: Archaeology and Arid Environment, 22(3), 247-270.

Brecher, H.H. and Thompson, L.G. 1993. Measurement of the retreat of Qori Kalis in the tropical Andes of Peru by Terrestrial Photogrammertry. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 59(6), 1017-1022.

Thompson, L.G., M.E. Davis and E. Mosley-Thompson. 1994. Glacial records of global climate: A 1500-year tropical ice core record of climate. Human Ecology, 22(1), 83-95.

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