The deglaciation history of the Simplon region (southern Swiss Alps) constrained by 10Be exposure dating of ice-molded bedrock surfaces

Dielforder, Armin; Hetzel, Ralf (2014). The deglaciation history of the Simplon region (southern Swiss Alps) constrained by 10Be exposure dating of ice-molded bedrock surfaces. Quaternary Science Reviews, 84, pp. 26-38. Pergamon 10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.11.008

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The deglaciation history of the Swiss Alps after the Last Glacial Maximum involved the decay of several ice domes and the subsequent disintegration of valley glaciers at high altitude. Here we use bedrock exposure dating to reconstruct the temporal and spatial pattern of ice retreat at the Simplon Pass (altitude: ∼2000 m) located 40 km southwest of the ‘Rhône ice dome’. Eleven 10Be exposure ages from glacially polished quartz veins and ice-molded bedrock surfaces cluster tightly between 13.5 ± 0.6 ka and 15.4 ± 0.6 ka (internal errors) indicating that the Simplon Pass depression became ice-free at 14.1 ± 0.4 ka (external error of mean age). This age constraint is interpreted to record the melting of the high valley glaciers in the Simplon Pass region during the warm Bølling–Allerød interstadial shortly after the Oldest Dryas stadial. Two bedrock samples collected a few hundred meters above the pass depression yield older 10Be ages of 17.8 ± 0.6 ka and 18.0 ± 0.6 ka. These ages likely reflect the initial downwasting of the Rhône ice dome and the termination of the ice transfluence from the ice dome across the Simplon Pass toward the southern foreland. There, the retreat of the piedmont glacier in Val d’Ossola was roughly synchronous with the decay of the Rhône ice dome in the interior of the mountain belt, as shown by 10Be ages of 17.7 ± 0.9 ka and 16.1 ± 0.6 ka for a whaleback at ∼500 m elevation near Montecrestese in northern Italy. In combination with well-dated paleoclimate records derived from lake sediments, our new age data suggest that during the deglaciation of the European Alps the decay of ice domes was approximately synchronous with the retreat of piedmont glaciers in the foreland and was followed by the melting of high-altitude valley glaciers after the transition from the Oldest Dryas to the Bølling–Allerød, when mean annual temperatures rose rapidly by ∼3 °C.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Tectonics

UniBE Contributor:

Dielforder, Armin


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
500 Science








Sarah Antenen

Date Deposited:

10 Aug 2015 11:18

Last Modified:

12 Aug 2015 21:39

Publisher DOI:





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