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Ice caves as an indicator of winter climate evolution: a case study from the Jura Mountains


Luetscher, M; Jeannin, P Y; Haeberli, W (2005). Ice caves as an indicator of winter climate evolution: a case study from the Jura Mountains. The Holocene, 15(7):982-993.

Abstract

Subsurface ice fillings were first described in the Jura Mountains at the end of the sixteenth century. In order to assess the impact of climate change on low-altitude cave ice a detailed inventory has been drawn up and more than 50 objects have been identified. Comparisons between older cave maps, photographic documents and present-day observations outline a negative trend in ice mass balances, a trend that increased at the end of the 1980s. As most of these ice caves act as cold air traps, this negative mass balance is mainly attributed to higher winter temperatures and to reduced snow precipitation at low altitudes. The equilibrium line altitude of ice caves is believed to have increased several hundred metres between AD 1978 and 2004. Photographic comparisons and proxy records in some of the caves studied provide evidence of a rapid mass turnover. Ice ages range between less than a few decades and a millennium. Climatic records in these ice fillings will therefore present only short time series compared with other cave sediments. However, indications of former ice fillings have been found in different caves of the Jura Mountains and outline their potential role as palaeoclimatic markers.

Subsurface ice fillings were first described in the Jura Mountains at the end of the sixteenth century. In order to assess the impact of climate change on low-altitude cave ice a detailed inventory has been drawn up and more than 50 objects have been identified. Comparisons between older cave maps, photographic documents and present-day observations outline a negative trend in ice mass balances, a trend that increased at the end of the 1980s. As most of these ice caves act as cold air traps, this negative mass balance is mainly attributed to higher winter temperatures and to reduced snow precipitation at low altitudes. The equilibrium line altitude of ice caves is believed to have increased several hundred metres between AD 1978 and 2004. Photographic comparisons and proxy records in some of the caves studied provide evidence of a rapid mass turnover. Ice ages range between less than a few decades and a millennium. Climatic records in these ice fillings will therefore present only short time series compared with other cave sediments. However, indications of former ice fillings have been found in different caves of the Jura Mountains and outline their potential role as palaeoclimatic markers.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:August 2005
Deposited On:20 Jul 2012 22:58
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:48
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0959-6836
Publisher DOI:10.1191/0959683605hl872ra
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-62186

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