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The Little Ice Age history of the Glacier des Bossons (Mont Blanc massif, France): a new high-resolution glacier length curve based on historical documents


Nussbaumer, Samuel U; Zumbühl, Heinz J (2012). The Little Ice Age history of the Glacier des Bossons (Mont Blanc massif, France): a new high-resolution glacier length curve based on historical documents. Climatic Change, 111(2):301-334.

Abstract

Historical and proxy records document that there is a substantial asynchronous development in temperature, precipitation and glacier variations between European regions during the last few centuries. The causes of these temporal anomalies are yet poorly understood. Hence, highly resolved glacier reconstructions based on historical evidence can give valuable insights into past climate, but they exist only for few glaciers worldwide. Here, we present a new reconstruction of length changes for the Glacier des Bossons (Mont Blanc massif, France), based on unevaluated historical material. More than 250 pictorial documents (drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, maps) as well as written accounts have been critically analysed, leading to a revised picture of the glacier’s history, especially from the mid-eighteenth century up to the 1860s. Very important are the drawings by Jean-Antoine Linck, Samuel Birmann and Eugène Viollet-le Duc, which depict meticulously the glacier’s extent during the vast advance and subsequent retreat during the nineteenth century. The new glacier reconstruction extends back to AD 1580 and proves maxima of the Glacier des Bossons around 1610/1643, 1685, 1712, 1777, 1818, 1854, 1892, 1921, 1941, and 1983. The Little Ice Age maximum extent was reached in 1818. Until the present, the glacier has lost about 1.5 km in length, and it is now shorter than at any time during the reconstruction period. The Glacier des Bossons reacts faster than the nearby Mer de Glace (glacier reconstruction back to AD 1570 available). The Mont Blanc area is, together with the valley of Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps (two historical glacier reconstructions available back to AD 1535, and 1590, respectively), among the two regions that are probably best-documented in the world regarding historical glacier data.

Abstract

Historical and proxy records document that there is a substantial asynchronous development in temperature, precipitation and glacier variations between European regions during the last few centuries. The causes of these temporal anomalies are yet poorly understood. Hence, highly resolved glacier reconstructions based on historical evidence can give valuable insights into past climate, but they exist only for few glaciers worldwide. Here, we present a new reconstruction of length changes for the Glacier des Bossons (Mont Blanc massif, France), based on unevaluated historical material. More than 250 pictorial documents (drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, maps) as well as written accounts have been critically analysed, leading to a revised picture of the glacier’s history, especially from the mid-eighteenth century up to the 1860s. Very important are the drawings by Jean-Antoine Linck, Samuel Birmann and Eugène Viollet-le Duc, which depict meticulously the glacier’s extent during the vast advance and subsequent retreat during the nineteenth century. The new glacier reconstruction extends back to AD 1580 and proves maxima of the Glacier des Bossons around 1610/1643, 1685, 1712, 1777, 1818, 1854, 1892, 1921, 1941, and 1983. The Little Ice Age maximum extent was reached in 1818. Until the present, the glacier has lost about 1.5 km in length, and it is now shorter than at any time during the reconstruction period. The Glacier des Bossons reacts faster than the nearby Mer de Glace (glacier reconstruction back to AD 1570 available). The Mont Blanc area is, together with the valley of Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps (two historical glacier reconstructions available back to AD 1535, and 1590, respectively), among the two regions that are probably best-documented in the world regarding historical glacier data.

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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:2012
Deposited On:14 Dec 2012 15:51
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:13
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0165-0009
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-011-0130-9

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