The Alps with little ice: Evidence for eight holocene phases of reduced glacier extent in the Central Swiss Alps

  • Hormes A
  • Muüller B
  • Schlüchter C
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Glacially deformed pieces of wood, organic lake sediments and clasts of reworked peat have been collected in front of Alpine glaciers since AD 1990. The palaeoglaciological interpretation of these organic materials is related to earlier phases of glacier recession surpassing that of today's shrunken glaciers and to tree growth and peat accumulation in the valleys now occupied by the glaciers. Glacial transport of the material is indicated by wood anatomy, incorporated silt, sand and gravel particles, missing bark and deformed treerings. A total of 65 samples have been radiocarbon dated so far, and clusters of dates provide evidence of eight phases of glacier recession: 9910-9550, 9010-7980, 7250-6500, 6170-5950, 5290-3870, 3640-3360, 2740-2620 and 1530-1170 calibrated years BP. Allowing for the timelag between climatic fluctuations, glacier response and vegetation colonization, these recession phases may lag behind climatic changes by 100-200 years.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Climatic change
  • Glacier retreat phases
  • Glacier variations
  • Holocene
  • Minimal glacier extension
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Swiss Alps

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  • Anne Hormes

  • Benjamin U. Muüller

  • Christian Schlüchter

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