Holocene dynamics of the Rhone Glacier, Switzerland, deduced from ice flow models and cosmogenic nuclides

B. M. Goehring, D. A. Vacco, R. B. Alley, and J. M. Schaefer

Earth and Planetary Science Letters (15 October 2012)

DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2012.07.027

We describe efforts to model the Holocene extent of the Rhone Glacier, Switzerland, using four paleoclimate records as templates for paleo-equilibrium line altitude to identify candidate driving mechanisms of glaciers in the Alps. We evaluate the success of each paleoclimate template by comparing cosmogenic 10Be and 14C concentrations in pro-glacial bedrock derived from modeled glacier configurations to measured values. An adequate fit can be obtained using mean summer insolation for 46.5°N. However, use of the Dongee Cave, China, speleothem record yields the best fit by accounting for both sub-millennial (e.g. Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period) and multi-millennial climate variations (summer insolation). Our result indicates that glaciers in the Alps primarily responded to changes in insolation during the Holocene were smaller than today during the early Holocene when insolation was relatively high, and became larger during the mid to late Holocene. Superimposed on the first-order insolation response were shorter, sometimes large amplitude, length changes in response to short-lived climate events such as the Medieval Warm Period and the LIA.

keywords: Rhone Glacier; in situ 14C; 10Be; Holocene

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