The Rhone Glacier was smaller than today for most of the Holocene

B. M. Goehring, J. M. Schaefer, C. Schluechter, N. A. Lifton, R. C. Finkel, A. J. Jull, N. Akçar, and R. B. Alley

Geology (1 July 2011)

DOI: 10.1130/G32145.1

We present the development and application of the novel in situ cosmogenic 14C/10Be chronometer to recently exposed proglacial bedrock of the Rhone Glacier, Switzerland. Results show that during the Holocene, the glacier was smaller than today for 6500 ± 2000 yr and larger than today for 4500 ± 2000 yr. This pattern is consistent with limited data from other techniques for glaciers in the Alps and Scandinavia, but in contrast to glaciers from the Southern Alps of New Zealand, emphasizing the high sensitivity of large mountain glaciers to small climate changes. The 14C/10Be chronometer also shows that abrasion rates beneath the Rhone Glacier increased with ice speed.

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