Articles | Volume 12, issue 10
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, Nerilie J. Abram, Jacopo Gabrieli, Theo M. Jenk, Dimitri Osmont, and Margit Schwikowski

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Related subject area

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Cited articles

Abram, N. J., McGregor, H. V., Tierney, J. E., Evans, M. N., McKay, N. P., Kaufman, D. S., and Consortium, P. K.: Early onset of industrial-era warming across the oceans and continents, Nature, 536, 411–418, 2016. 
Barbante, C., Schwikowski, M., Döring, T., Gaggeler, H. W., Schotterer, U., Tobler, L., Van De Velde, K., Ferrari, C., Cozzi, G., Turetta, A., Rosman, K., Bolshov, M., Capodaglio, G., Cescon, P., and Boutron, C.: Historical record of European emissions of heavy metals to the atmosphere since the 1650s from Alpine snow/ice cores drilled near Monte Rosa, Environ. Sci. Technol., 38, 4085–4090, 2004. 
Bauer, S. E., Bausch, A., Nazarenko, L., Tsigaridis, K., Xu, B. Q., Edwards, R., Bisiaux, M., and McConnell, J.: Historical and future black carbon deposition on the three ice caps: Ice core measurements and model simulations from 1850 to 2100, J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos., 118, 7948–7961, 2013. 
Bohleber, P., Wagenbach, D., Schöner, W., and Böhm, R.: To what extent do water isotope records from low accumulation Alpine ice cores reproduce instrumental temperature series?, Tellus B, 65, 17, 2013. 
Bohleber, P., Erhardt, T., Spaulding, N., Hoffmann, H., Fischer, H., and Mayewski, P.: Temperature and mineral dust variability recorded in two low-accumulation Alpine ice cores over the last millennium, Clim. Past, 14, 21–37,, 2018. 
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.