Ice content and interannual water storage changes of an active rock glacier in the dry Andes of Argentina

Halla, Christian; Blöthe, Jan Henrik; Tapia Baldis, Carla; Trombotto Liaudat, Dario; Hilbich, Christin; Hauck, Christian; Schrott, Lothar

The quantification of volumetric ice and water content in active rock glaciers is necessary to estimate their role as water stores and contributors to runoff in dry mountain catchments. In the semi-arid to arid Andes of Argentina, active rock glaciers potentially constitute important water reservoirs due to their widespread distribution. Here however, water storage capacities and their interannual changes have so far escaped quantification in detailed field studies. Volumetric ice and water content was quantified using a petrophysical four-phase model (4PM) based on complementary electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and seismic refraction tomography (SRT) in different positions of the Dos Lenguas rock glacier in the upper Agua Negra basin, Argentina. We derived vertical and horizontal surface changes of the Dos Lenguas rock glacier, for the periods 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 using drone-derived digital elevation models (DEMs). Interannual water storage changes of inline-formula−36 mm yrinline-formula−1 and inline-formula+27 mm yrinline-formula−1 derived from volumetric surface changes for the periods 2016–2017 and 2017–2018, respectively, indicate that significant amounts of annual precipitation can be stored in and released from the active rock glacier.

Geophysical results show heterogeneous ice and water content with ice-rich permafrost and supra-, intra- and sub-permafrost water pathways at the end of the thaw period. Active layer and ice-rich permafrost control traps and pathways of shallow groundwater and thus regulate interannual storage changes and water releases from the active rock glaciers in the dry mountain catchment. The ice content of 1.7–2.0 inline-formula× 10inline-formula9 kg in the active Dos Lenguas rock glacier represents an important long-term ice reservoir, as do other ground ice deposits in the vicinity, if compared to surface ice that covers less than 3 % of the high mountain catchment.

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Halla, Christian / Blöthe, Jan Henrik / Tapia Baldis, Carla / et al: Ice content and interannual water storage changes of an active rock glacier in the dry Andes of Argentina. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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