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Published February 2015 | metadata_only
Journal Article

Alpine lacustrine varved record reveals summer temperature as main control of glacier fluctuations over the past 2250 years


Glacier fluctuations are a key indicator of changing climate. Their reconstruction beyond historical times unravels glacier variability and its forcing factors on long time scales, which can considerably improve our understanding of the climate–glacier relationship. Here, we present a 2250-year-long reconstruction of particle-mass accumulation rates recorded in the lacustrine sediments of Lake Trüebsee (Central Swiss Alps) that are directly related to glacier extent, thus reflecting a continuous record of fluctuations of the upstream-located Titlis Glacier. Mass accumulation rate values show strong centennial to multi-centennial fluctuations and reveal 12 well-pronounced periods of enhanced values corresponding to times of maximum extent of the neighboring Lower Grindelwald Glacier. This result supports previous studies of proglacial lake sediments that documented high mass accumulation rate values during glacier advances. The strong variability in the Lake Trüebsee mass accumulation rate record thus represents a highly sensitive paleoclimatic archive, which mirrors rapid and pronounced feedbacks of Titlis Glacier to climatic changes over the past 2250 years. The comparison of our data with independent paleo-temperature reconstructions from tree rings suggests that variations in mean summer temperature were the primary driving factor of fluctuations of Titlis Glacier. Also, advances of Titlis Glacier occurred during the grand solar minima (Dalton, Maunder, Spörer, Wolf) of the last millennium. This relation of glacier extent with summer temperature reveals strong evidence that the mass balance of this Alpine glacier is primarily controlled by the intensity of glacier melting during summer.

Additional Information

© 2015 by SAGE Publications. Received January 3, 2014. Accepted September 1, 2014. Published online before print November 26, 2014. We thank Michael Hilbe, Christoph Schär, and Mario M. MorelIon for support during the seismic survey and coring campaign at Lake Triiebsee; the mountain railway operators of the Titlis region (Engelberg-Titlis Tourismus AG) for sponsored transports of material and persons to the lake; EWN (electric power company of Nidwalden, Switzerland) for giving us the opportunity to retrieve sediment cores from Lake Trüebsee; Ulf Büntgen, Jürg Beer, Martin Grosjean, Michael Hilbe, and Monique Stewart for fruitful discussions of the results and/or manuscript; and Irene Brunner for sediment-sample analysis. Funding: This study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) (Grant 200020-137930 and 200021-121909).

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023