Last Glacial Maximum climate in New Zealand inferred from a modelled Southern Alps icefield

Nicholas R. Golledge, Andrew N. Mackintosh, Brian M. Anderson, Kevin M. Buckley, Alice M. Doughty, David J.A. Barrell, George H. Denton, Marcus J. Vandergoes, Bjorn G. Andersen, Joerg M. Schaefer

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We present a simulation of the New Zealand Southern Alps icefield at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, c. 30,000-20,000 calendar years ago (ka)) in an attempt to constrain the climate of that period. We use a 500 m-resolution ice-sheet model parameterised using empirical glaciological, climatological and geological data specific to the model domain to simulate the entire Southern Alps icefield. We find that an LGM cooling of at least 6-6.5 °C is necessary to bring about valley glaciers that extend beyond the mountains. However, climate-topography thresholds related to the elevation and hypsometry of individual catchments control the gradient of the rate of glacier expansion in the domain, and in order to remain within geologically reconstructed LGM limits we find that the LGM cooling was most likely associated with a precipitation regime up to 25% drier than today. Wetter-than-present scenarios give rise to equilibrium line depressions and ice extents that are incompatible with empirical evidence. These results perhaps indicate that either the westerly air masses affecting New Zealand during the LGM were drier than today, or that they were weaker or zonally displaced with respect to present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-45
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Glacial geology
  • Glaciology
  • Ice-sheet modelling
  • Palaeoclimate

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