Glacier variations in the European Alps at the end of the last glaciation

S. Ivy-Ochs


The Last Glacial Maximum in the Alps lasted from approximately 30 to 19 ka. Glaciers reached out onto the forelands on both sides of the main Alpine chains, forming piedmont lobes in the north and filling the Italian amphitheatres to the south. Pullback of glaciers from their maximum extent was underway by 24 ka. Glaciers oscillated at stillstand and minor re-advance positions for several thousand years forming Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) stadial moraines. North and south of the Alps, the various stadials cannot yet be unequivocally matched. Glaciers had receded back within the mountain front by 19-18 ka. During the early Lateglacial phase of ice decay remnants of the once huge valley glaciers that fed the piedmont lobes downwasted and were likely calving into the extensive lakes that formed in the lower valley reaches. The first Alpine-wide glacier re-advance took place during the Gschnitz stadial, 17-16 ka, which was likely a response to Europe-wide cooling during Heinrich event 1. By the Bølling/Allerød interstadial much of the Alps were ice-free. Glaciers advanced repeatedly to an extent several kilometers from the cirque headwalls, during the Egesen stadial in response to the Younger Dryas cold period. Egesen stadial moraines, at some sites several sets of moraines, were constructed in valleys all across the Alps. 10Be exposure dates for Egesen stadial moraines are in the range 13.5 to 12 ka. Moraines located at an intermediate position between the Little Ice Age moraines and the Egesen moraines formed at the margins of glaciers that advanced during the closing phase of the Egesen stadial or during the earliest Holocene at 10.5 ka.


last glacial maximum, lateglacial, Gschnitz, Egesen, Holocene, cosmogenic nuclides.

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