The glacial evolution of the Cantabrian Mountains is not well known. Previous studies have focused on the extent of the glacial maximum and the presence of younger features in several massifs. Recently, efforts have been made to date glacial periods, particularly the glacial maximum. This work presents a reconstruction of the glacial evolution in the Cantabrian Mountains, providing data on the environmental characteristics and timing of the different stages from the Quaternary glacial maximum to the Little Ice Age. The study area covers 3000 km2 between the 4°58′W and 3°34′W and includes eleven massifs of the central area of the Cantabrian Mountains. The selected sectors have an Atlantic and Atlantic-Mediterranean transitional climate and include the highest massifs (above 2600 m) and low-altitude glacierised massifs (lower than 2000 m). Glacial extent and evolution have been reconstructed on the basis of detailed geomorphological and morphostratigraphic mapping. The equilibrium line altitude (palaeo-ELA) has been estimated for the different stages of each tongue. The ELA has been assessed by the AAR and modified Kurowski methods and altitude methods have been considered. A numerical chronological framework is proposed using 17 AMS radiocarbon and one OSL data obtained in lake and bog deposits from three massifs. Four main glacial stages have been differentiated, between 38,000 BP and the Little Ice Age. They correspond to different cold environments, and the number of glacial stages varies from one to four among the different massifs. Conclusions are analysed in the context of the Quaternary glacial evolution of other Iberian mountains.
- late quaternary
- Cantabrian Mountains