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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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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.

  25 Aug 2020

25 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Cryogenic cave carbonates in the Dolomites (Northern Italy): insights into Younger Dryas cooling and seasonal precipitation

Gabriella Koltai1, Christoph Spötl1, and Hai Cheng2,3,4 Gabriella Koltai et al.
  • 1Institute of Geology, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52d, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 2Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi'an, China
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Abstract. In the European Alps, the Younger Dryas (YD) was characterized by the last major glacier advance with equilibrium line altitudes being ~ 220 to 290 m lower than during the Little Ice Age and also by the development of rock glaciers. Dating of these geomorphic features, however, is associated with substantial uncertainties leading to considerable ambiguities on the internal structure of this stadial, the most intensively studied one of the last glacial period. Here we provide robust physical evidence based on precise 230Th-dated cryogenic cave carbonates (CCC) coupled with thermal modelling indicating that early YD winters were only moderately cold in the Southern Alps, challenging the commonly held view of extreme YD seasonality. Our data argue for a negative temperature anomaly of ≤ 3 °C in mean annual air temperature at the Allerød-YD transition in a mountain cave (Cioccherloch, 2274 m a.s.l.) in the Dolomites of northern Italy. Our data suggest that autumns and early winters in the early part of the YD were relatively snow-rich, resulting in a stable winter snow cover. The latter insulated the shallow subsurface in winter and allowed the cave interior to remain close to the freezing point (0 °C) year-round, promoting CCC formation. The main phase of CCCs precipitation at ~ 12.2 ka BP coincides with the mid-YD transition recorded in other archives across Europe. Based on thermal modelling we propose that CCC formation at ~ 12.2 ka BP was most likely associated with a slight warming of approximately +1 °C in conjunction with drier autumns and early winters in the second half of the YD. These changes triggered CCC formation in this alpine cave as well as ice glacier retreat and rock glacier expansion in the Alps.

Gabriella Koltai et al.

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Gabriella Koltai et al.

Model code and software

diffusion_1D_temp: Version 1.2 Alex Jarosch

Gabriella Koltai et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This paper utilizes a novel paleoclimate archive from caves, cryogenic cave carbonates, which allow to precisely constrain permafrost thawing events in the past. Our study provides new insights into the climate of the Younger Dryas (12,800 to 11,700 years BP) in mid-Europe from the perspective of a high-elevation cave sensitive to permafrost development. We quantify seasonal temperature and precipitation changes by using a heat conduction model.
This paper utilizes a novel paleoclimate archive from caves, cryogenic cave carbonates, which...