Late Pleistocene glaciers and climate in the Mediterranean

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Evidence for Late Pleistocene glaciers and rock glaciers in the Pindus Mountains, Greece, is used to reconstruct palaeoclimate for this part of the Mediterranean during the last cold stage (Tymphian/ Würmian). Mean annual precipitation was c. 2300 ± 200 mm and the mean summer temperature (June/July/August) was c. 4.9°C at 2174 m a.s.l., the equilibrium line altitude of the former glaciers, at the last local glacier maximum. The glacier-climate relationship in the northern Pindus Mountains during the local glacier maximum of the Tymphian Stage closely resembled that found today at the equilibrium line altitude of Norwegian glaciers. The local glacier maximum on Mount Tymphi is likely to have preceded both the most severe phase of climate indicated in the pollen record at nearby Ioannina and also the global last glacial maximum. Major stadials, including the most severe phase of the last cold stage, were characterised by cold sea surfaces temperatures, which inhibited atmospheric moisture supply creating unfavourable conditions for glacier formation. Such stadial conditions are likely to have favoured periglacial conditions and the formation of features such as rock glaciers. Conversely, warm summer temperatures during major interstadials would have promoted glacier ablation, offsetting increased precipitation enabled by warmer sea surface temperatures. Thus, the most favourable conditions for glacier formation would have occurred during intermediate conditions between major stadials and interstadials. It is clear that former glacier behaviour in the mountains of this region is best understood with reference to temporally dynamic glacier-climate models, which take into account millennial-scale changes in both precipitation and temperature. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


  • Glaciation
  • Greece
  • Palaeoclimate
  • Pindus Mountains
  • Pleistocene
  • Tymphian
  • Würmian


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