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Sci Rep. 2019 May 31;9(1):8130. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44516-5.

Elemental and Mineralogical Composition of the Western Andean Snow (18°S-41°S).

Author information

1
Universidad de Santiago, Av. B. O'Higgins 3363, Santiago, Chile.
2
Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC), Apartado 20632, Caracas, 20632, Venezuela.
3
Universidad de Santiago, Av. B. O'Higgins 3363, Santiago, Chile. raul.cordero@usach.cl.
4
NorthWest Research Associates, Redmond, USA.
5
Department of Chemistry, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, USA.
6
Unidad de Glaciología y Nieves, Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Santiago, Chile.
7
Centro GAIA Antártica, Universidad de Magallanes, Punta Arenas, Chile.
8
Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), La Serena, Chile.
9
Department of Physical Geography, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
10
Center for Climate and Resilience Research, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
11
Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello, Viña del Mar, Chile.
12
School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, USA.
13
Center for Environmental Remote Sensing, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan.
14
Centro Mario Molina, Antonio Bellet 292, Santiago, Chile.
15
Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Abstract

The snowpack is an important source of water for many Andean communities. Because of its importance, elemental and mineralogical composition analysis of the Andean snow is a worthwhile effort. In this study, we conducted a chemical composition analysis (major and trace elements, mineralogy, and chemical enrichment) of surface snow sampled at 21 sites across a transect of about 2,500 km in the Chilean Andes (18-41°S). Our results enabled us to identify five depositional environments: (i) sites 1-3 (in the Atacama Desert, 18-26°S) with relatively high concentrations of metals, high abundance of quartz and low presence of arsenates, (ii) sites 4-8 (in northern Chile, 29-32°S) with relatively high abundance of quartz and low presence of metals and arsenates, (iii) sites 9-12 (in central Chile, 33-35°S) with anthropogenic enrichment of metals, relatively high values of quartz and low abundance of arsenates, (iv) sites 13-14 (also in central Chile, 35-37°S) with relatively high values of quartz and low presence of metals and arsenates, and v) sites 15-21 (in southern Chile, 37-41°S) with relatively high abundance of arsenates and low presence of metals and quartz. We found significant anthropogenic enrichment at sites close to Santiago (a major city of 6 million inhabitants) and in the Atacama Desert (that hosts several major copper mines).

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