04 Aug 2023
 | 04 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Climate of the Past (CP).

Abrupt termination of the Little Ice Age in the Alps in the mid-19th century: lessons from a multi-proxy tree-ring reconstruction of glacier mass balance

Jérôme Lopez-Saez, Christophe Corona, Lenka Slamova, Matthias Huss, Valérie Daux, Kurt Nicolussi, and Markus Stoffel

Abstract. Glacier mass-balance reconstructions provide a means of placing relatively short observational records into a longer-term context. Here, we use multiple proxies from Pinus cembra trees from God da Tamangur combining tree-ring anatomy and stable isotope chronologies to reconstruct seasonal glacier mass balance (i.e. winter, summer and annual mass balance) for the nearby Silvrettagletscher over the last two centuries. The combination of tree-ring width, radial cell wall thickness and δ13C isotope records provide a highly significant reconstruction for summer mass balance, whereas, for winter mass balance, the correlation was less significant but still robust when radial cell lumen was combined with δ18O and δ13C records. Combination of the reconstructed winter and summer mass balances allows quantification of the annual mass balance of Silvrettagletscher, for which in-situ measurements date back to 1919. Our reconstruction indicates a substantial increase in glacier mass during the first half of the 19th century and an abrupt termination of this phase after the end of the Little Ice Age. Since the 1860s, negative glacier mass balances have been dominant and mass losses accelerate as anthropogenic warming picks up in the Alps. This abrupt termination of the Little Ice Age cannot be found if the mass balance reconstruction is obtained from the gridded temperature and precipitation fields (1 × 1 km) available for Switzerland since 1763.

Jérôme Lopez-Saez et al.

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1746', Riccardo Cerrato, 09 Sep 2023 reply

Jérôme Lopez-Saez et al.

Jérôme Lopez-Saez et al.


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Short summary
Glaciers in the European Alps have been retreating since the 1850s. Monitoring glacier mass balance is vital for understanding global changes, but only a few glaciers have long-term data. This study aims to reconstruct the mass balance of Silvrettagletscher in the Swiss Alps using stable isotopes and tree-ring proxies. Results indicate increased glacier mass until the 19th century, followed by a sharp decline after the Little Ice Age with accelerated losses due to anthropogenic warming.