Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Lessons from a Spanish glacier

A recent EU project has used glacial records from the Spanish Pyrenees mountain range to better understand climate change in Europe.
Lessons from a Spanish glacier
The Gulf Stream currently carries warmth and moisture to Europe, providing a temperate climate suitable for agriculture. However, over the millennia the position of the Gulf Stream has fluctuated by 20 degrees of latitude, resulting in dramatic changes in the European climate.

Researchers on the EU-funded EX-GLACIER (A record of rapid climate change from the Pyrenees, Spain) project used state-of-the-art technology to determine the timing of glacier advances in the central Pyrenees in relation to changes in the Gulf Stream. The project also built a laboratory to evaluate Chlorine-36, a rare element used to date rocks, and which needs a sealed working environment.

Ice sheets and glaciers are highly sensitive to climate warming and the Gallego Valley in the Spanish Pyrenees is host to a small single glacier that is rapidly receding. Climate change studies in this region have been hampered due to the lack of a complete record for the advance and retreat of ice in the valley and elsewhere in the Pyrenees.

Initial findings from exposure dating indicated that some features were much younger than previously believed. Samples were analysed to date the rate of retreat of ice up to the present day extent of the glacier.

EX-GLACIER used 2D modelling coupled with an ice flow model to accurately map the Glaciar de l'Inferno. From this information, researchers reconstructed lines of glacial flow, and showed that the glacier was 480 m thick and 40 km long at its maximum.

Researchers used these results to reconstruct the glacier and estimate rates of temperature change during global warming at the end of the last ice age. This project will help scientists and decision makers better understand the future effects of global warming and take actions to mitigate the environmental and economic costs.

Related information

Keywords

Glacier, Spanish Pyrenees, climate change, Gulf Stream, ice sheets
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