Dust record in an ice core from tropical Andes (Nevado Illimani – Bolivia), potential for climate variability analyses in the Amazon basin
Abstract. Understanding the mechanisms controlling glacial retreat in the tropical Andes can strengthen future predictions of ice cover in the region. As glaciers are a dominant freshwater source in these regions, accurate ice cover predictions are necessary for developing effective strategies to protect future water resources. In this study, we investigated a 97-year dust record from two Nevado Illimani ice cores to determine the dominant factors controlling particle concentration and size distribution. In addition, we measured the area of a Nevado Illimani glacier (glacier n°8) using aerial photographs from 1956 and 2009. We identified two dustier periods during the 20th century (1930s–1940s and 1980s–2016), which were linked to reduced moisture transport from the Amazon basin. This promoted an unprecedented increase in the percentage of coarse dust particles (CPPn, ∅ > 10 μm) during the 1990s, as drier local conditions favored the emission and deposition of coarse particles on the glacier. Moisture advection from the Amazon basin to Nevado Illimani was influenced by tropical North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (TNA), which was supported by the correlation between TNA and CPPn (r = 0.52). Furthermore, glacial retreat has been accelerating since the 1980s, and a notable relationship between CPPn and the freezing level height (FLH, r = 0.41) was observed. This suggests that higher FLHs promote glacial retreat, which exposes fresh glacial sediments and facilitates the transport of coarse dust particles to the Nevado Illimani summit. Therefore, both the area of glacier n°8 and the ice core record of coarse dust particles were found to respond to climate variability—particularly to the warmer conditions across the southern tropical Andes and drier conditions over the Amazon basin.
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