Remotely sensed time series of rapid terrace formation: Laguna del Viedma valley (Patagonia)

Varyl R. Thorndycraft


The Patagonian Andes were affected by a range of geophysical drivers of landscape incision during the Last Glacial Interglacial Transition and Early Holocene. Deciphering drivers of river system response during this period is complex, and magnitudes and timescales of landscape change are poorly constrained. Herein, a remotely sensed time series of modern terrace formation is investigated from the Laguna del Viedma valley as a modern analogue of Late Quaternary landscape evolution in Patagonia. The aim of the research was to constrain the timing of terrace formation following lake level fall of the Laguna del Viedma over a 35 year period from 1985-2019. The objectives were to: 1) use satellite imagery from 1985-2019 to document glacier and lake changes in the study area; 2) map landforms of the Laguna del Viedma valley; and 3) analyse terrace elevations. In total seven terrace surfaces were distinguished, with the oldest four pre-dating the ALOS PALSAR DEM (February 2000) used. Landform evidence shows the highest, and vegetated, T1 terrace surface (+40-75 m) grades to the highest lake level and was likely the elevation of the valley floor during Holocene neoglacials. Viedma glacier recession then led to a phase of lake regressions/transgressions with an overall trend of lake level fall. The DEM shows ~20 m incision from the 1985 floodplain level (T3) to the T4 level floodplain by 2000. This constrains a minimum rate of incision of 1.33 m/yr, however, the satellite time series demonstrates rapid T3 terrace formation, with evidence for mass movements contributing to lateral terrace erosion by 1986. The implications of the data are discussed within the context of the Late Quaternary palaeohydrology of Patagonia where lake level falls of 10s to 100s of metres occurred within many large river systems of the Patagonian Andes from 42-52⁰ S. The data herein demonstrate that base level falls from sudden lake drainage events were likely a major driver of rapid landscape change in Patagonia during deglaciation.


Base level; Glacial lake outburst floods; Palaeohydrology; Paraglacial geomorphology; Patagonia; Remote sensing

How to cite this article Thorndycraft, V. 2022, Remotely sensed time series of rapid terrace formation: Laguna del Viedma valley (Patagonia). Andean Geology 49 (2) : 169-184. [doi:]