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Title: Holocene glacier history from alpine speleothems, Milchbach cave, Switzerland
Authors: Luetscher, Marc
Hoffmann, Dirk
Frisia, Silvia
Spötl, Christoph
Keywords: Holocene;Paleoclimate;Alps;Speleothem;Milchbach cave;Grindelwald Glacier
Issue Date: Feb-2011
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2011, 302 (1-2), 95-106
Abstract: Mountain glaciers and their sediments are prominent witnesses of climate change, responding sensitively to even small modifications in meteorological parameters. Even in such a classical and thoroughly studied area as the European Alps the record of Holocene glacier mass-balance is only incompletely known. Here we explore a novel and continuous archive of glacier fluctuations in a cave system adjacent to the Upper Grindelwald Glacier in the Swiss Alps. Milchbach cave became partly ice-free only recently and hosts Holocene speleothems. Four coeval stalagmites show consistent petrographic and stable isotopic changes between 9.2 and 2.0 ka which can be tied to abrupt modifications in the cave environment as a result of the closing and opening of multiple cave entrances by the waxing and waning of the nearby glacier. During periods of Holocene glacier advances, columnar calcite fabric is characterized by δ18O values of about −8.0‰ indicative of speleothem growth under quasi-equilibrium conditions, i.e. little affected by kinetic effect related to forced degassing or biological processes. In contrast, fabrics formed during periods of glacier minima are typical of bacterially mediated calcite precipitation within caves overlain by an alpine soil cover. Moreover, δ18O values of the bacterially mediated calcite fabrics are consistent with a ventilated cave system fostering kinetic fractionation. These data suggest that glacier retreats occurred repeatedly before 5.8 ka, and that the amplitudes of glacier retreats became substantially smaller afterwards. Our reconstruction of the Upper Grindelwald Glacier fluctuations agrees well with paleoglaciological studies from other sites in the Alps and provides a higher temporal resolution compared to traditional analyses of peat and wood remains found in glacier forefields.
ISSN: 0012-821X
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2010.11.042
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Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Geocronología y Geología

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