The Southern Patagonian Ice Field, located in the Southern Patagonic Andes between Chile and Argentina, is the world's second-largest contiguous extrapolar ice field. It is the larger of two remnant parts of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, which covered all of southern Chile during the last glacial period.
Southern Patagonian Ice Field
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field, located in the Southern Patagonic Andes within the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, is the world's second largest contiguous extrapolar ice field. It is the larger of two remnant parts of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, which covered all of southern Chile during the last glacial period, locally called the Llanquihue glaciation.
The northern and southern lobes of the Patagonian ice field are what’s left of a much larger ice sheet that reached its maximum size about 18,000 years ago. Though just a fraction of their previous size, the modern ice fields remain the largest expanse of ice in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. But rapid change is ongoing, due to a high rate of melting.
The ice mass feeds dozens of glaciers in the area, among which are the Upsala, Viedma and Perito Moreno in the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, and the Pío XI Glacier or Bruggen Glacier (the largest in area and longest in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica), O'Higgins, Grey and Tyndall in Chile.
The glaciers going to the west flow into the fjords of the Patagonian channels of the Pacific Ocean; those going to the East flow into the Patagonian lakes Viedma and Argentino, and eventually, through the rivers de la Leona and Santa Cruz, to the Atlantic Ocean.
An important part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field is protected under different national parks, such as the Bernardo O'Higgins and Torres del Paine in Chile, and the aforementioned Los Glaciares in Argentina.
There are two known volcanoes under the ice field; Lautaro and Viedma. Due to their inaccessibility they are among the least researched volcanoes in Chile and Argentina.
Fifty km (30 mi) of the Chile-Argentina border, between Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Murallón, remain undefined on the ice field. This Southern Patagonian Ice Field section of the border is the last remaining border issue between Chile and Argentina.
NASA satellite photo of the South Patagonia Ice Field