This paper reviews current understanding of deglaciation in North, Central and South America from the Last Glacial Maximum to the beginning of the Holocene. Together with paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic data, we compare and contrast the pace of deglaciation and the response of glaciers to major climate events. During the Global Last Glacial Maximum (GLGM, 26.5-19 ka), average temperatures decreased 4° to 8°C in the Americas, but precipitation varied strongly throughout this large region. Many glaciers in North and Central America achieved their maximum extent during the GLGM, whereas others advanced even farther during the subsequent Heinrich Stadial 1 (HS-1). Glaciers in the Andes also expanded during the GLGM, but that advance was not the largest, except on Tierra del Fuego. HS-1 (17.5-14.6 ka) was a time of general glacier thickening and advance throughout most of North and Central America, and in the tropical Andes; however, glaciers in the temperate and subpolar Andes thinned and retreated during this period. During the Bølling-Allerød interstadial (B-A, 14.6-12.9 ka), glaciers retreated throughout North and Central America and, in some cases, completely disappeared. Many glaciers advanced during the Antarctic Cold Reversal (ACR, 14.6-12.9 ka) in the tropical Andes and Patagonia. There were small advances of glaciers in North America, Central America and in northern South America (Venezuela) during the Younger Dryas (12.9-11.7 ka), but glaciers in central and southern South America retreated during this period, except on the Altiplano where advances were driven by an increase in precipitation. Taken together, we suggest that there was a climate compensation effect, or ‘seesaw’, between the hemispheres, which affected not only marine currents and atmospheric circulation, but also the behavior of glaciers. This seesaw is consistent with the opposing behavior of many glaciers in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This paper was supported by Project CGL2015-65813-R (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness ). David Palacios thanks the Institute of Alpine and Arctic Research, at the University of Colorado, for providing the facilities to coordinate this work during his Fulbright Grant stay there in 2019. We thank Eric Leonard and Joe Licciardi for corrections of some sections of the text, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions that have greatly improved the paper.
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- Glacial Chronology
- Late Pleistocene