Late Quaternary environments and palaeoclimate
Claudio Latorre (coordinator), Patricio I. Moreno, Gabriel Vargas, Antonio Maldonado, Rodrigo Villa-Martínez, Juan J. Armesto, Carolina Villagrán, Mario Pino, Lautaro Núñez, Martin Grosjean, 2007. "Late Quaternary environments and palaeoclimate", The Geology of Chile, Teresa Moreno, Wes Gibbons
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Chile possesses one of the most pronounced climate gradients in the world, extending from the world’s driest desert in the northern part of the country, where precipitation is measured in millimetres per decade, down to the channel and fiords region in southern Patagonia where rainfall can average up to 7 m per year or more. In contrast, thermal buffering by the Pacific Ocean contributes to ameliorating extreme temperatures, generating a latitudinal temperature gradient that is considerably less pronounced than across similar latitudinal ranges in other parts of the world (Miller 1976; Axelrod et al. 1991). Coupled with millions of years of geographic isolation induced by the massive barrier imposed by the Andean Cordillera, Chile today possesses a highly endemic fauna and flora whose distribution is tightly linked to these gradients (Arroyo et al. 1996; Hinojosa & Villagrán 1997).
Considering its geographic position and tectonic setting, it is hence not surprising that the geomorphology of Chile over the last two million years or so, i.e. the ‘Quaternary’ (see Gradstein et al. 2004), has been strongly influenced by climate along this broad latitudinal gradient. Whereas ancient landscapes preserved for millions of years exist in the hyperarid Atacama, repeatedly glaciated landscapes predominate in southern Chile. Elucidating the precise chronology of these Quaternary events affecting the western margin of southern South America is of great relevance to a number of scientific disciplines including ecology, palaeo-climatology, evolutionary biology, population genetics, phylogeography, biogeography and conservation.
Consequently, records of past climate and
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This book is the first comprehensive account in English of the geology of Chile, providing a key reference work that brings together many years of research, and written mostly by Chilean authors from various universities and other centres of research excellence. The 13 chapters begin with a general overview, followed by detailed accounts of Andean tectonostratigraphy and magmatism, the amazingly active volcanism, the world class ore deposits that have proven to be so critical to the welfare of the country, and Chilean water resources. The subject then turns to geophysics with an examination of neotectonics and earthquakes, the hazardous frequency of which is a daily fact of life for the Chilean population. There are chapters on the offshore geology and oceanography of the SE Pacific Ocean, subjects that continue to attract much research not least from those seeking to understand world climatic variations, and on late Quaternary land environments, concluding with an account examining human colonization of southernmost America.
During his voyage on H.M.S. Beagle, an extended visit to Chile (1834-35) had a profound impact on Charles Darwin, especially on his understanding of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Over more recent decades scientists have come to recognize the Chilean Andes as providing the classic example of a mountain belt produced by oceanic subduction beneath a continent, as well as some of the most dramatic scenic and climatic variations on Earth. In the final chapter, the editors offer a description of a drive from the Mediterranean landscapes of central Chile to the hyperarid Atacama Desert, a contribution designed to give visitors a chance to experience for themselves the geology and scenery of this extraordinary country.