Mountain topography and landforms reflect the interplay between geodynamic, climatic and erosion processes at the Earth’s surface. In that context, the progressive cooling of the Earth’s climate during the last millions of years, associated with theonset of cyclic glacial conditions, has fostered active research on mountain erosion response to glaciation, with widespread evidence for a dominant control of glacial processes on mountain topography since the onset of Quaternary glaciation (i.e. during the last 2.6 Myr).
Our research aims at working on the interactions between paleo-glacier dynamics and mountain erosion in the western European Alps, during the paleoclimatic conditions of the last glacial cycle (i.e. over the last 100 kyr). Focusing on this period offers the opportunity to target detailed geomorphological and sedimentological archives from which we can acquire quantitative and high-resolution constraints on the different processes. The central objective of the research project is to develop a deeper understanding of both past climatic conditions and erosion patterns within the Alps and their foreland, using geological and paleoclomatic information presently available in the literature to identify the remaining gaps in the records and thus provide a more complete framework from a multidisciplinary approach.
We will two complementary directions on (1) the reconstruction of high-resolution glacier fluctuations and paleoclimatic conditions in the Alps from the application of cutting-edge geochronological methods (OSL surface exposure dating and surface paleothermometry); and (2) the quantification of glacial erosion patterns and subglacial sediment transport times in the Alps and their foreland from detailed investigation of the geological record. The integration of the compiled paleoclimatic and geological constraints into numerical ice models will be used to calibrate the physical laws governing ice dynamics, glacial erosion and sediment transfer from source to sink, thereby offering a quantitative framework to investigate the long-term relief evolution of the Alps during Quaternary glaciation. This will ultimately provide a better understanding of the physical processes involved in glacial erosion and sediment transport beneath glaciers.