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Revista de la Asociación Geológica Argentina

versión impresa ISSN 0004-4822


RABASSA, Jorge. The global climatic change in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego since voyage of Charles Darwin until present times. Rev. Asoc. Geol. Argent. [online]. 2010, vol.67, n.1, pp.139-156. ISSN 0004-4822.

The Voyage of the Beagle that brought Charles Darwin to South America in AD 1832- 1835 and particularly, to the present territory of Argentina, was developed under very unfavorable climatic conditions, much colder, drier and windier than today. These circunstances correspond to the dominant conditions during the last phase of the little ice age, which was a global, cold event that characterized the 17th to the 19th centuries. This phase is known as the Dalton Minimum, in reference to the relative small amount of solar spots, which generated a diminution of the solar radiation and in consequence, the lowering of the global mean temperatures in that period. Darwin was perfectly conscious of those climatic conditions, which were clearly shown in Europe at those times and particularly in the Alps, and therefore he is clearly showing that in his writings. Since Darwin's Voyage to Patagonia, the climatic and environmental conditions have changed substantially, particularly after AD 1850 and finally, after the middle portion of the AD 1970's decade. Some of the most important consequences of global climate change are rising mean annual or seasonal temperature, rising or diminishing precipitations at the regional level, rising global sea level, and an increase in the frequency of extreme meteorological events. The impact of these changes has been observed in the glaciers of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, at least since AD 1978 and, particularly, in the last decade of the 20th century. The most noticeable impacts are rapid recession of ice margins, thinning of the ice cover, raising elevation of the regional snow line and reduction of Andean areas under permafrost conditions, as recent scientific research has demonstrated. At the present rate of ice recession, most, if not all of the cirque glaciers in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego will disappear during the next two decades, and both valley glaciers and the Patagonian ice sheets will be severely reduced as well. As a consequence of glaciers vanishing, environmental, hydrological, geomorphological, heritage and tourism damages are expected to occur in these regions and severely affect those communities active in them.

Palabras clave : Global warming; Glaciers; Little ice age; Patagonia; Tierra del Fuego.

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