Geology: Alpine summits may have been ice-free during life of Tyrolean Iceman

December 17, 2020

Alpine summits at 3,000 to 4,000 m may have been ice free until about 5,900 years ago, just before the lifetime of the Tyrolean Iceman (Oetzi), when new glaciers started to form, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. The findings suggest that only the highest Alpine summits (4000 m and above) remained covered in ice for all of the current geological epoch, the Holocene, which began approximately 11,650 years ago.

Understanding how past glacier dynamics related to changes in climate, may help assess the pace of future glacier loss in the Alps, and previous research dated the oldest ice at some summits above 4,000m to 11,500 years ago.

Pascal Bohleber and colleagues analysed two ice cores collected at 3,500m altitude from ice frozen to the bedrock of the Weißseespitze summit glacier in the Oetztal Alps, Austria. This site is 12 km from where the Iceman (dated to 5,100 to 5,300 years ago) was found at 3,210 m. Using radiocarbon dating ? a key tool for determining the age of prehistoric samples ? the authors found that the ice just above the bedrock at 11 m depth was 5,900 years old. As the ice just above the bedrock is the first to have formed after an ice-free period, determining its maximum age can identify past ice-free periods.

Although the findings indicate that deglaciation of Alpine summits at below 4,000m during the Holocene is not unprecedented, further information is needed on whether deglaciation is currently occurring at an unprecedented pace. Under current melt rates the old ice just above the bedrock, which is a sensitive archive of glacier change, may be lost within the next two decades, according to the authors.
Article details

New glacier evidence for ice-free summits during the life of the Tyrolean Iceman



Corresponding Author:

Pascal Bohleber
Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, Austria

Please link to the article in online versions of your report (the URL will go live after the embargo ends):

Scientific Reports

Related Climate Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Climate Insights 2020: Climate opinions unchanged by pandemic, but increasingly entrenched
A new survey provides a snapshot of American opinion on climate change as the nation's public health, economy, and social identity are put to the test.

Climate action goes digital
More transparent and accessible to everyone: information and communication technologies bring opportunities for transforming traditional climate diplomacy.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

How aerosols affect our climate
Greenhouse gases may get more attention, but aerosols -- from car exhaust to volcanic eruptions -- also have a major impact on the Earth's climate.

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

How trees could save the climate
Around 0.9 billion hectares of land worldwide would be suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions.

Climate undermined by lobbying
For all the evidence that the benefits of reducing greenhouse gases outweigh the costs of regulation, disturbingly few domestic climate change policies have been enacted around the world so far.

Climate education for kids increases climate concerns for parents
A new study from North Carolina State University finds that educating children about climate change increases their parents' concerns about climate change.

Read More: Climate News and Climate Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to