Late-Pleistocene palaeoclimate and glacial activity recorded from lake sediments in the Eastern Alps

Reinhard Starnberger, Helena Rodnight, Paula Reimer, Juergen M. Reitner, Ruth Drescher-Schneider, Christoph Spoetl

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Greenland ice core data show that the last glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere was characterized by relatively short and rapid warming-cooling cycles. While the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and the following Late Glacial are well documented in the Eastern Alps, continuous and well dated records of the time period preceding the LGM are only known from stalagmites. Although most of the sediment that filled the Alpine valleys prior to the LGM was eroded, thick successions have been locally preserved as terraces along the flanks of large longitudinal valleys. The Inn valley in Tyrol (Austria) offers the most striking examples of Pleistocene terraces in the Eastern Alps. A large number of drill cores provides the opportunity to study these sediments for the first time in great detail. Our study focuses on the river terrace of Unterangerberg near Wörgl, where LGM gravel and till were deposited on top of (glacio)lacustrine sediments. The cores comprise mostly silty material, ranging from organic-rich to organic-poor and dropstone-rich beds. A diamictic layer classified as basal till is present at the bottom of the lake sediments. Radiocarbon ages of plant macro remains from the lake sequences indicate deposition between ~40 and >50 cal. ka BP. Luminescence ages obtained from fine-grain polymineral (4-11 μm) samples suggest an age of the lake deposits between ~40 to 60 ka and are consistent with the radiocarbon dates. Sedimentological analyses indicate that sedimentation in these palaeolakes was driven by local processes, but also by climatically induced changes in nearby glacier activity. These observations strongly hint towards a significant ice advance in the Eastern Alps during the early last glacial and subsequent mild interstadial conditions, supporting a local coniferous forest vegetation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2011
EventINQUA XVIII Congress - Bern, Switzerland
Duration: 01 Jul 201101 Jul 2011


ConferenceINQUA XVIII Congress

Bibliographical note

INQUA 2011


  • glaciers
  • Alps
  • Lake sediments


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