10th International Conference on Geomorphology
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Large landslides and glacial lakes: a new chapter of the Patagonian Ice Sheet story

Tomáš Pánek1, Michal Břežný1, Elisabeth Schönfeldt2, and Diego Winocur3
Tomáš Pánek et al.
  • 1University of Ostrava, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, Ostrava, Czechia (tomas.panek@osu.cz)
  • 2University of Potsdam, Institute of Geosciences, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24-25, 14476, Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Departamento de Ciencias Geologicas, Intendente Güiraldes 2416, C1428EGA, CABA, Argentina

Although ice retreat is widely considered to be an important factor in landslide origin, many links between deglaciation and slope instabilities are yet to be discovered. Here we focus on the origin and chronology of exceptionally large landslides situated along the eastern margin of the former Patagonian Ice Sheet (PIS). Accumulations of the largest rock avalanches in the former PIS territory are concentrated in the Lago Pueyrredón valley at the eastern foothills of the Patagonian Andes in Argentina. Long-runout landslides have formed along the rims of sedimentary and volcanic mesetas, but also on the slopes of moraines from the Last Glacial Maximum. At least two rock avalanches have volumes greater than 1 km3 and many other landslide accumulations have volumes in the order of tens to hundreds of million m3. Using cross-cutting relationships with glacial and lacustrine sediments and using OSL and 14C dating, we found that the largest volume of landslides occurred between ~17 and ~11 ka. This period coincides with the most rapid phase of PIS retreat, the greatest intensity of glacial isostatic uplift, and the existence of a dropping glacial lake along the foothills of the Patagonian Andes. The position of paleoshorelines in the landslide bodies and, in many places, folded and thrusted lacustrine sediments at the contact with rock avalanche deposits indicate that the landslides collapsed directly into the glacial lake. Although the landslides along the former glacial lobe of Lago Pueyrredón continue today, they are at least an order of magnitude smaller than the rock and debris avalanches that occurred before the drainage of the glacial lake around 10-11 ka. Preliminary numerical modeling results indicate that large postglacial landslides may have been triggered by a combination of rapid sequential glacial lake drawdowns and seismicity due to glacial isostatic adjustment. We conclude that in addition to direct links such as glacial oversteepening, debuttressing and permafrost degradation, the retreat of ice sheets and the subsequent formation of transient large glacial lakes can fundamentally alter stability conditions, especially if the slopes are built by weak sedimentary and volcanic rocks.

How to cite: Pánek, T., Břežný, M., Schönfeldt, E., and Winocur, D.: Large landslides and glacial lakes: a new chapter of the Patagonian Ice Sheet story, 10th International Conference on Geomorphology, Coimbra, Portugal, 12–16 Sep 2022, ICG2022-137, https://doi.org/10.5194/icg2022-137, 2022.