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Keywords:

  • Egesen stage;
  • Late-glacial period;
  • Great Aletsch Glacier;
  • 10Be exposure dating;
  • terrestrial in situ cosmogenic nuclide;
  • Younger Dryas chron;
  • western Swiss Alps

Abstract

Egesen moraines throughout the Alps mark a glacial advance that has been correlated with the Younger Dryas cold period. Using the surface exposure dating method, in particular the measurement of the cosmogenic nuclide 10Be in rock surfaces, we attained four ages for boulders on a prominent Egesen moraine of Great Aletsch Glacier, in the western Swiss Alps. The 10Be dates range from 10 460±1100 to 9040±1020 yr ago. Three 10Be dates between 9630±810 and 9040±1020 yr ago are based upon samples from the surfaces of granite boulders. Two 10Be dates, 10 460±1100 and 9910±970 yr ago, are based upon a sample from a quartz vein at the surface of a schist boulder. In consideration of the numerous factors that can influence apparently young 10Be dates and the scatter within the data, we interpret the weighted mean of four boulder ages, 9640±430 yr (including the weighted mean of two 10Be dates of the quartz vein), as a minimum age of deposition of the moraine.

All 10Be dates from the Great Aletsch Glacier Egesen moraine are consistent with radiocarbon dates of nearby bog-bottom organic sediments, which provide minimum ages of deglaciation from the moraine. The 10Be dates from boulders on the Great Aletsch Glacier Egesen moraine also are similar to 10Be dates from Egesen moraines of Vadret Lagrev Glacier on Julier Pass, in the eastern Swiss Alps. Both the morphology of the Great Aletsch Glacier Egesen moraine and the comparison with 10Be dates from the inner Vadret Lagrev Egesen moraine support the hypothesis that the climatic cooling that occurred during the Younger Dryas cold episode influenced the glacial advance that deposited the Great Aletsch Glacier Egesen moraine. Because of the large size and slow response time of Great Aletsch Glacier, we suggest that the Great Aletsch Glacier Egesen moraine was formed during the last glacial advance of the multiphased Egesen cold period, the Kromer stage, during the Preboreal chron. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.