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Holocene Glacier Fluctuations in the Peruvian Andes Indicate Northern Climate Linkages

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Science  25 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5948, pp. 1677-1679
DOI: 10.1126/science.1175010

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Two of the most important questions in paleoclimatology are, how are the climates of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres linked, and what are the roles of the high latitudes and the tropics in driving and transmitting climate changes? Past investigations have concentrated on the study of large, rapid climate changes like deglaciations or the Younger Dryas because they are the easiest ones to see and to date. Licciardi et al. (p. 1677) expand the scope of these investigations by determining precise cosmogenic isotope ages for glacial moraines formed in the Peruvian Andes during the Holocene (the last 11,000 years). The precision of these data reveals a broad correlation between Peruvian glacial advances and climate in the North Atlantic region, revealing important climate linkages between the tropics and higher latitudes.

Abstract

The role of the tropics in triggering, transmitting, and amplifying interhemispheric climate signals remains a key debate in paleoclimatology. Tropical glacier fluctuations provide important insight on regional paleoclimatic trends and forcings, but robust chronologies are scarce. Here, we report precise moraine ages from the Cordillera Vilcabamba (13°20′S) of southern Peru that indicate prominent glacial events and associated climatic shifts in the outer tropics during the early Holocene and late in the “Little Ice Age” period. Our glacier chronologies differ from the New Zealand record but are broadly correlative with well-dated glacial records in Europe, suggesting climate linkages between the tropics and the North Atlantic region.

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