Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-287
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-287

  26 Oct 2020

26 Oct 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Unprecedented loss of surface and cave ice in SE Europe related to record summer rains in 2019

Aurel Persoiu1,2,3, Nenad Buzjak4,, Alexandru Onaca5,, Christos Pennos6,, Yorgos Sotiriadis7,, Monica Ionita8, Stavros Zachariadis9, Michael Styllas10, Jure Kosutnik11, Alexandru Hegyi5,12, and Valerija Butorac4 Aurel Persoiu et al.
  • 1Emil Racoviță Institute of Speleology, Romanian Academy, Cluj Napoca, 400006, Romania
  • 2Stable Isotope Laboratory, Ștefan cel Mare University, Suceava, 720229, Romania
  • 3Romanian Institute of Science and Technology, Cluj Napoca, 400022, Romania
  • 4Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, 10000, Croatia
  • 5Department of Geography, West University, Timișoara, 300223, Romania
  • 6Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen, Bergen, 5020, Norway
  • 7Department of Geography, Aegean University, Mytilene, 81100, Greece
  • 8Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, 27515, Germany
  • 9Department of History and Archeology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, 54636, Greece
  • 10École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland
  • 11University of Nova Gorica, Nova Gorica, 5000, Slovenia
  • 12Department of History and Archaeology, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, 1678, Cyprus
  • Authors with equal contribution

Abstract. Glaciers worldwide are shrinking at an accelerated rate as the climate changes in response to anthropogenic influence. While increasing air temperature is the main factor behind glacier mass loss, changing atmospheric circulation patterns and the distribution of precipitation also plays a role, though these are not as well understood. Furthermore, while the mass balance of surface glaciers (from large polar ice sheets to small alpine glaciers) is relatively well documented and continuously monitored, little to nothing is known about the response of cave glaciers (perennial ice accumulations in rock-hosted caves) to atmospheric warming. In this context, we present the response of cave and surface glaciers in SE Europe to synoptic conditions in summer 2019. Our investigation shows that extreme precipitation events occurring between May and July 2019 led to catastrophic loss of ice at levels unprecedented during the last century. As climate models predict that such extreme precipitation events are set to increase in frequency and intensity, the presence of cave glaciers in SE Europe and the paleoclimatic information they host may be lost in the near future. Moreover, the same projected continuous warming and increase in precipitation extremes could pose an additional threat to the Alpine glaciers in southern Europe, resulting in faster than predicted melting.

Aurel Persoiu et al.

 
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Aurel Persoiu et al.

Aurel Persoiu et al.

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Short summary
Extreme precipitation events in summer 2019 led to catastrophic loss of cave ice in SE Europe at levels unprecedented during the last century. The projected continuous warming and increase in precipitation extremes could pose an additional threat to glaciers in southern Europe, resulting in faster than predicted melting.