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Late Cenozoic glaciations and environments in southernmost Patagonia

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This thesis advances understanding of late Cenozoic landscape evolution and glaciation in southernmost South America using continental sedimentary deposits and landforms in the Lago Cardiel region in the foothills of the southern Patagonian Andes and along the Atlantic north and south of the Strait of Magellan. The evolution of the landscape in these two areas was determined through landform mapping and relative chronologic landform correlations. Paleomagnetic characteristics of late Cenozoic sediments and basalt flows and the stratigraphy and sedimentology of Pleistocene glacial sediments in sea cliffs and anthropogenic exposures provide a chronology and evidence of depositional environments during Pleistocene glaciations. The landscape in the Lago Cardiel area changed significantly following the last major period of tectonic uplift at the end of the Miocene. Large west-trending valleys that incise Miocene-aged basalt were abandoned by their formative rivers about 4.4 Ma. The closed basin that contains Lago Cardiel began to form on the relict plain surface before 4.0 Ma and grew in size throughout the Pliocene and Pleistocene by a combination of erosion by small streams, deflation, colluviation, and possibly tectonic collapse. Drainage reorganizations occurred at about 4.0 Ma and 3.6 Ma, most likely initiated by increased aggradation or isostasy during Pliocene glaciations. Eolian, fluvial, and mass-movement processes continued to alter the landscape throughout the Pleistocene with higher rates during glacial periods. Evidence of at least three glaciations is recorded in the stratigraphic exposures at the Atlantic Coast and the shores of the Strait of Magellan. At Cabo Vírgenes and Bahía Posesión, two glacial drift units were deposited in a grounding-line environment. These sediments are normally magnetized and date to the Brunhes Chron (
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Ward, Brent
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etd10664_CGriffing.pdf 20.42 MB

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