Articles | Volume 12, issue 10
The Cryosphere, 12, 3311–3331, 2018
The Cryosphere, 12, 3311–3331, 2018

Research article 16 Oct 2018

Research article | 16 Oct 2018

19th century glacier retreat in the Alps preceded the emergence of industrial black carbon deposition on high-alpine glaciers

Michael Sigl et al.

Data sets

Black carbon (rBC), bismuth, lead and others from 1741 to 2015 AD from Colle Gnifetti ice core (Swiss/Italian Alps) Michael Sigl, Nerilie J. Abram, Jacopo Gabrieli, Theo M. Jenk, Dimitri Osmont, Margit Schwikowski

Short summary
The fast retreat of Alpine glaciers since the mid-19th century documented in photographs is used as a symbol for the human impact on global climate, yet the key driving forces remain elusive. Here we argue that not industrial soot but volcanic eruptions were responsible for an apparently accelerated deglaciation starting in the 1850s. Our findings support a negligible role of human activity in forcing glacier recession at the end of the Little Ice Age, highlighting the role of natural drivers.