Spatial and climatic characterization of three glacial stages in the Upper Krnica Valley, SE European Alps

Erika Kozamernik, Renato R. Colucci, Uroš Stepišnik, Emanuele Forte, Manja Žebre*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
244 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The southeastern European Alps represent the spot where mean annual precipitation is at its highest in the entire Alpine chain. Accordingly, the glacial evolution here might have a different spatial and chronological pattern if compared with other alpine areas. This paper discusses geomorphological evidence of three glacial stages from the Krnica Valley in the Julian Alps of Slovenia, and is the first step towards a comprehensive palaeoglaciological studies in this alpine sector. Very well-preserved glacial landforms in the Upper Krnica Valley allowed the reconstruction of glacier surface topographies and corresponding equilibrium line altitudes (ELAs) by means of field-based geomorphological and sedimentological data and by using geospatial analysis. The uppermost frontal moraines belong to the Little Ice Age (LIA) and the corresponding ELA is estimated at 1973 m a.s.l. Other two stages with the ELA depressed by 50 m and 161 m compared to the LIA ELA, suggest early Holocene and Younger Dryas ages of the palaeoglaciers, respectively. This assumption ensues from absolute age datings and related ELA depressions observed elsewhere in the European Alps. The presence of buried ice under the debris in the Krnica cirque, imaged through geophysical investigations, point to peculiar microclimatic conditions able to preserve relict glacier ice. This is favoured by the recursive presence of snow on the ground caused by the extreme summer shading and the significant winter snow-recharge triggered by snowblow and avalanche feeding. The possible evolution of such relict ice under the ongoing climate warming is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-81
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary International
Volume470
Issue numberA
Early online date03 Jun 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018

Keywords

  • ELA
  • European Alps
  • GPR
  • Holocene
  • Ice patch
  • Younger Dryas

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