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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  08 Jun 2020

08 Jun 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

The case of a southern European glacier disappearing under recent warming that survived Roman and Medieval warm periods

Ana Moreno1, Miguel Bartolomé2, Juan Ignacio López-Moreno1, Jorge Pey1,3, Pablo Corella4, Jordi García-Orellana5,6, Carlos Sancho, María Leunda7, Graciela Gil-Romera8,1, Penélope González-Sampériz1, Carlos Pérez-Mejías9, Francisco Navarro10, Jaime Otero-García10, Javier Lapazaran10, Esteban Alonso-González1, Cristina Cid11, Jerónimo López-Martínez12, Belén Oliva-Urcia12, Sérgio H. Faria13,14, María José Sierra15, Rocío Millán15, Xavier Querol16, Andrés Alastuey16, and José M. García-Ruiz1 Ana Moreno et al.
  • 1Departamento de Procesos Geoambientales y Cambio Global, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología – CSIC, 50059, Zaragoza, Spain
  • 2Departamento de Geología, Museo de Ciencias Naturales – CSIC, Madrid, 28034, Spain
  • 3Fundación Aragonesa para la Investigación y el Desarrollo, ARAID, Zaragoza, Spain
  • 4Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble INP, IGE, 38000 Grenoble, France
  • 5Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • 6Departament de Física, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • 7Institute of Plant Sciences & Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research. Altenbergrain 21, 3013 Bern, Switzerland
  • 8Departmentof Ecology, Faculty of Biology, Philipps-Marburg University, Marburg, Germany
  • 9Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, 710049, China
  • 10Departamento de Matemática Aplicada a las TIC, ETSIde Telecomunicación, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 11Centro de Astrobiología – CSIC-INTA, Madrid, Spain
  • 12Departamento de Geología y Geoquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 13Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), 48940, Leioa, Spain
  • 14IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, 48011, Bilbao, Spain
  • 15CIEMAT – Environmental Department (DMA), Avenida Complutense 40, 28040 Madrid, Spain
  • 16Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research – CSIC, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
  • deceased

Abstract. Mountain glaciers have generally experienced an accelerated retreat over the last three decades as a rapid response to current global warming. However, the response to previous warm periods in the Holocene is not well-described for glaciers of the of southern Europe mountain ranges, such as the Pyrenees. The situation during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (900–1300 CE) is particularly relevant since it is not certain whether the glaciers just experienced significant ice loss or whether they actually disappeared. We present here the first chronological study of a glacier located in the Central Pyrenees (N Spain), the Monte Perdido Glacier (MPG), carried out by different radiochronological techniques and their comparison with geochemical proxies with neighboring paleoclimate records. The result of the chronological model proves that the glacier endured during the Roman Period and the Medieval Climate Anomaly. The lack of ice from last 600 years indicates that the ice formed during the Little Ice Age has melted away. The analyses of the content of several metals of anthropogenic origin, such as Zn, Se, Cd, Hg, Pb, appear in low amounts in MPG ice, which further supports our age model in which the record from the industrial period is lost. This study confirms the exceptional warming of the last decades in the context of last two millennia. We demonstrate that we are facing an unprecedented retreat of the Pyrenean glaciers which survival is compromised beyond a few decades.

Ana Moreno et al.

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Ana Moreno et al.


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Short summary
Our study of the chronological sequence of Monte Perdido Glacier in Central Pyrenees (Spain) reveals that, although the intense warming associated with the Roman Period or the Medieval Climate Anomaly produced important ice mass losses, it was insufficient to make this glacier disappear. By contrast, recent global warming has melted away almost 600 years of ice accumulated since the Little Ice Age, jeopardizing the survival of this and other southern European glaciers over the next few decades.
Our study of the chronological sequence of Monte Perdido Glacier in Central Pyrenees (Spain)...