The case of a southern European glacier which survived Roman and medieval warm periods but is disappearing under recent warming

Ana Moreno*, Miguel Bartolomé, Juan Ignacio López-Moreno, Jorge Pey, Juan Pablo Corella, Jordi García-Orellana, Carlos Sancho, María Leunda, Graciela Gil-Romera, Penélope González-Sampériz, Carlos Pérez-Mejías, Francisco Navarro, Jaime Otero-García, Javier Lapazaran, Esteban Alonso-González, Cristina Cid, Jerónimo López-Martínez, Belén Oliva-Urcia, Sérgio Henrique Faria, María José SierraRocío Millán, Xavier Querol, Andrés Alastuey, José M. García-Ruíz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Mountain glaciers have generally experienced an accelerated retreat over the last 3 decades as a rapid response to current global warming. However, the response to previous warm periods in the Holocene is not well-described for glaciers of the southern Europe mountain ranges, such as the Pyrenees. The situation during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (900-1300 CE) is particularly relevant since it is not certain whether the southern European glaciers just experienced significant ice loss or whether they actually disappeared. We present here the first chronological study of a glacier located in the Central Pyrenees (NE Spain), Monte Perdido Glacier (MPG), carried out by different radiochronological techniques and a comparison with geochemical proxies from neighbouring palaeoclimate records. The chronological model evidences that the glacier persisted during the Roman period and the Medieval Climate Anomaly. The apparent absence of ice in the past ∼ 600 years suggests that any ice accumulated during the Little Ice Age has since ablated. This interpretation is supported by measured concentrations of anthropogenic metals, including Zn, Se, Cd, Hg and Pb, which have concentrations well below those typical of industrial-age ice measured at other glaciers in Europe. This study strengthens the general understanding that warming of the past few decades has been exceptional for the past 2 millennia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1157-1172
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2021


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