23 May 2022
23 May 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Atmosphere-cryosphere interactions at 21 ka BP in the European Alps

Costanza Del Gobbo1,2, Renato R. Colucci3,2, Giovanni Monegato4, Manja Žebre5, and Filippo Giorgi2 Costanza Del Gobbo et al.
  • 1Alpine-Adriatic Meteorological Society, Udine, 33100, Italy
  • 2Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, 34151, Italy
  • 3Institute of Polar Sciences, National Research Council, Trieste, 34149, Italy
  • 4Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources, National Research Council, Padova, 35131, Italy
  • 5Geological Survey of Slovenia, Ljubljana, 1000, Slovenia

Abstract. Evidence that during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) glaciers extended well into the piedmont planes is still identifiable in the alpine foreland as a system of well-preserved moraines. Glaciers are strongly affected by temperature and precipitation and therefore they are excellent indicators of climate change. Here we use a regional climate model (RCM) to investigate the physical processes sustaining the glacier extent during the LGM. We find a predominance of convection during summer and increased southwesterly stratiform precipitation over the southern Alps compared to pre-industrial conditions. This precipitation pattern, along with lower temperatures, determined summer snowfall extending to low elevations with a consequent substantial drop of the equilibrium line altitude (ELA) consistent with the estimated LGM glacier extent. Our RCM based estimates of the ELA at the LGM yield excellent consistency with Alpine glacier reconstructions, further demonstrating the great potential of this technique for use in paleoclimate studies.

Costanza Del Gobbo et al.

Status: open (until 18 Jul 2022)

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Costanza Del Gobbo et al.

Costanza Del Gobbo et al.


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Short summary
We studied the atmosphere-cryosphere interaction during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the Alpine region, using a high-resolution regional climate model. We analyzed the climate south and north of the Alps and provide a detailed map of the Alpine Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) as well as an analysis of the mechanism that sustained the Alpine glaciers at the LGM. Genoa low and a mild Mediterranean Sea led to frequent snowfall in the southern Alps, preserving the glaciers and lowering the ELA.