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U/Th age constraints on the absence of ice in the central Inn Valley (eastern Alps, Austria) during Marine Isotope Stages 5c to 5a

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Christoph Spötl*
Institut für Geologie und Paläontologie, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Augusto Mangini
Forschungsstelle Radiometrie, Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Im Neuenheimer Feld 229, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
Corresponding author. Fax: +43 512 507 2914. E-mail address: (C. Spötl).


Calcitic flowstones are present in fractures of a Pleistocene breccia near Innsbruck, Austria, and record periods of carbonate precipitation in the unsaturated zone between 101,500 ± 1500 and 70,300 ± 1800 yr, constrained by U-series disequilibrium dates. The occurrence of these speleothems, their low carbon isotopic composition, and the lack of infiltrated siliciclastic material demonstrate that the central Inn valley – which harbored one of the most extensive valley glaciers during the last glacial maximum – was ice-free during Marine Isotope Stages 5c to 5a. Climatically warm periods are separated by distinct drops in the oxygen isotopic composition of the speleothem calcite, attributed to strong and possibly seasonally biased atmospheric cooling. During these intervening stadials, which mirror those identified in the Greenland ice cores and marine sea-surface temperature records, calcite deposition apparently came to a halt, but the Inn Valley remained ice-free. The youngest calcite layer formed between ∼74,000 and ∼70,000 yr and places a maximum age limit on the likely expansion of alpine glaciers during the Marine Isotope Stage 5/4 transition, consistent with other speleothem records.

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University of Washington

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U/Th age constraints on the absence of ice in the central Inn Valley (eastern Alps, Austria) during Marine Isotope Stages 5c to 5a
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