Climate

Explaining the last glacier retreat

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Science  11 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6253, pp. 1179
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6253.1179-a

“Erratic” boulders deposited by a receding glacier

PHOTO: © DAVID ROBERTSON/ALAMY STOCK

Between 19,000 and 11,500 years ago, glaciers around the globe retreated as Earth emerged from the last glacial period. Efforts to identify the main drivers of this retreat have been hampered by dating uncertainties. Shakun et al. have recalculated the ages of over 1000 glacial boulders from almost 200 sites around the world, using an improved calibration that provides more accurate dates. They find that although there are regional variations, most glacier retreats coincided with the rise in atmospheric carbon during the deglaciation. The high sensitivity of alpine glaciers to carbon dioxide increases has implications for future glacier loss as a result of climate change.

Nat. Commun. 10.1038/ncomms9059 (2015).

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