Projects Detail

The Last Interglacial in the Alps

The Last Interglacial was a time of higher sea level, smaller high-latitude ice sheets and lower greenhouse gas concentrations relative to today. This previous warm period in Earth history was similar to our current interglacial but lacked anthropogenic impact, and therefore provides invaluable insight into the natural backdrop influencing the future of a warming Anthropocene.

This projects examines the Last Interglacial with a regional focus on the European Alps. Its primary objectives are: (1) Establishing precisely dated proxy records spanning the entire interglacial from the penultimate deglaciation to the glacial inception for central Europe based on replicated speleothems; (2) linking these cave-based records to long-known, but undated sediment successions of former lakes and mires in the foreland of the Alps using pollen grains preserved in the calcite of speleothems (to address a long-standing question about leads and lags in the vegetation in response to climate change in Europe); and (3) quantifying temperature changes across the Last Interglacial using stable isotopes of fluid inclusions and clumped isotopes (resulting in the first precisely dated temperature curve for central Europe, which is based on physical measurements rather than biological proxies).

Research hypotheses include the early warming during Termination II, the supposedly rapid warming step at 129 ka, the lack of significant millennial-scale climate variability during the interglacial, and its gradual demise (glacial inception).

FWF Project P300040
P.i.: Christoph Spötl
Post-doc: Paul Wilcox (2018-2019)
PhD student: Charlotte Honiat (2019-2022)
Duration: 2018-2022

Larry Edwards (University of Minnesota)
Stéphane Jaillet (EDYTEM)
Martin Trüssel (NeKO Alpnach)
Marc Luetscher (our group and SISKA)
Maria Knipping (Hohenheim University)
Hai Cheng (Xi'an Jiaotong University)
Robert Scholger (University of Leoben)
Yuri Dublyansky (our group)
Achim Brauer (GFZ Potsdam)
Anders Svensson (Copenhagen)

Recent publications:
Wilcox et al. (2020)
Luetscher et al. (2021)
Honiat et al. (2022)