Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
The Cryosphere, 10, 2779-2797, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
17 Nov 2016
Age of the Mt. Ortles ice cores, the Tyrolean Iceman and glaciation of the highest summit of South Tyrol since the Northern Hemisphere Climatic Optimum
Paolo Gabrielli1,2, Carlo Barbante3,4,5, Giuliano Bertagna1, Michele Bertó3, Daniel Binder6, Alberto Carton7, Luca Carturan8, Federico Cazorzi9, Giulio Cozzi3,4, Giancarlo Dalla Fontana8, Mary Davis1, Fabrizio De Blasi8, Roberto Dinale10, Gianfranco Dragà11, Giuliano Dreossi3, Daniela Festi12, Massimo Frezzotti13, Jacopo Gabrieli3,4, Stephan P. Galos14, Patrick Ginot15,16, Petra Heidenwolf12, Theo M. Jenk17, Natalie Kehrwald18, Donald Kenny1, Olivier Magand15,16, Volkmar Mair19, Vladimir Mikhalenko20, Ping Nan Lin1, Klaus Oeggl12, Gianni Piffer21, Mirko Rinaldi21, Ulrich Schotterer22, Margit Schwikowski17, Roberto Seppi23, Andrea Spolaor3, Barbara Stenni3, David Tonidandel19, Chiara Uglietti17, Victor Zagorodnov1, Thomas Zanoner7, and Piero Zennaro3 1Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, 43210, USA
2School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, 275 Mendenhall Laboratory, Columbus, 43210, USA
3Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, 30170 Venice-Mestre, Italy
4Istituto per la Dinamica dei Processi Ambientali-CNR, 30170 Venice-Mestre, Italy
5Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, 00196 Rome, Italy
6Climate Research Section, Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics ZAMG, 1190 Vienna, Austria
7Department of Geosciences, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy
8Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova, Agripolis, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
9Dipartimento di Scienze Agro-Alimentari, Ambientali e Animali, Università di Udine, 33100 Udine, Italy
10Ufficio Idrografico, Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano, 39100 Bolzano, Italy
11Geologin, 39040 Varna, Italy
12Institute for Botany, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
13ENEA, 00196 Rome, Italy
14Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
15Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE), CNRS, 38041 Grenoble, France
16University Grenoble Alpes, 38041 Grenoble, France
17Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institut, 5232 Villigen, Switzerland
18Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, 80225, USA
19Ufficio Geologia e Prove materiali, Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano, 39053 Kardano, Italy
20Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, 119017 Moscow, Russia
21Waterstones Geomonitoring, 39044 Egna, Italy
22University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
23Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy
Abstract. In 2011 four ice cores were extracted from the summit of Alto dell'Ortles (3859 m), the highest glacier of South Tyrol in the Italian Alps. This drilling site is located only 37 km southwest from where the Tyrolean Iceman,  ∼ 5.3 kyrs old, was discovered emerging from the ablating ice field of Tisenjoch (3210 m, near the Italian–Austrian border) in 1991. The excellent preservation of this mummy suggested that the Tyrolean Iceman was continuously embedded in prehistoric ice and that additional ancient ice was likely preserved elsewhere in South Tyrol. Dating of the ice cores from Alto dell'Ortles based on 210Pb, tritium, beta activity and 14C determinations, combined with an empirical model (COPRA), provides evidence for a chronologically ordered ice stratigraphy from the modern glacier surface down to the bottom ice layers with an age of  ∼ 7 kyrs, which confirms the hypothesis. Our results indicate that the drilling site has continuously been glaciated on frozen bedrock since  ∼ 7 kyrs BP. Absence of older ice on the highest glacier of South Tyrol is consistent with the removal of basal ice from bedrock during the Northern Hemisphere Climatic Optimum (6–9 kyrs BP), the warmest interval in the European Alps during the Holocene. Borehole inclinometric measurements of the current glacier flow combined with surface ground penetration radar (GPR) measurements indicate that, due to the sustained atmospheric warming since the 1980s, an acceleration of the glacier Alto dell'Ortles flow has just recently begun. Given the stratigraphic–chronological continuity of the Mt. Ortles cores over millennia, it can be argued that this behaviour has been unprecedented at this location since the Northern Hemisphere Climatic Optimum.

Citation: Gabrielli, P., Barbante, C., Bertagna, G., Bertó, M., Binder, D., Carton, A., Carturan, L., Cazorzi, F., Cozzi, G., Dalla Fontana, G., Davis, M., De Blasi, F., Dinale, R., Dragà, G., Dreossi, G., Festi, D., Frezzotti, M., Gabrieli, J., Galos, S. P., Ginot, P., Heidenwolf, P., Jenk, T. M., Kehrwald, N., Kenny, D., Magand, O., Mair, V., Mikhalenko, V., Lin, P. N., Oeggl, K., Piffer, G., Rinaldi, M., Schotterer, U., Schwikowski, M., Seppi, R., Spolaor, A., Stenni, B., Tonidandel, D., Uglietti, C., Zagorodnov, V., Zanoner, T., and Zennaro, P.: Age of the Mt. Ortles ice cores, the Tyrolean Iceman and glaciation of the highest summit of South Tyrol since the Northern Hemisphere Climatic Optimum, The Cryosphere, 10, 2779-2797,, 2016.
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
New ice cores were extracted from Alto dell'Ortles, the highest glacier of South Tyrol in the Italian Alps, to check whether prehistoric ice, which is coeval to the famous 5300-yr-old Tyrolean Iceman, is still preserved in this region. Dating of the ice cores confirms the hypothesis and indicates the drilling site has been glaciated since the end of the Northern Hemisphere Climatic Optimum (7000 yrs BP). We also infer that an unprecedented acceleration of the glacier flow has recently begun.
New ice cores were extracted from Alto dell'Ortles, the highest glacier of South Tyrol in the...