Project

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Quaternary glaciation and environmental history of the Alps: Establishing chronologies for proglacial deposits from northern Switzerland

Applicant Preusser Frank
Number 126784
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Geologie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Geochronology
Start/End 01.02.2010 - 31.01.2013
Approved amount 253'073.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Geochronology
Geology

Keywords (9)

Quaternary; glaciations; sediments; dating; luminescence; cosmogenic nuclides; Switzerland; Alps; chronostratigraphy

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Deciphering the past dynamics of circulation systems and its impact on continental environments is a fundamental requirement for understanding the presently observed climate change and its possible consequences for human societies. In particular, it is still poorly understood how the geosphere responded to Quaternary climate change on different temporal as well as spatial scales. Within this context, we propose to reconstruct the glaciation history of the northern Swiss lowlands, where a variety of proglacial sedimentary sequences are well exposed in different gravel pits and natural outcrops. Recent research has shown that the Quaternary record of the region is much more complex than previously assumed. Investigating this geological record will allow a detailed reconstruction of the geological past, where and when glaciers advanced into the Swiss lowland. However, until recently, the lack of an independently dated chronological framework prevented the placement of this exceptional geological archive within a global context. We will use state-of-the-art approaches of both luminescence dating for determining the Quaternary deposition history of the area. The project is subdivided into two linked work packages (WP) that will focus on different time slices.WP 1 will focus on the number of glacial advances during the Late Pleistocene. Detailed sedimentological logging and Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating of quartz will be used to establish an independent chronological framework for the deposits. Prior to dating a detailed testing program will be carried out to characterise the OSL properties of the investigated samples and find the optimal measurement conditions. This work will be done within a PhD project.WP 2 will concentrate on establishing the chronology of the Middle Pleistocene deposits of the area. We will use conventional OSL and Infrared Stimulated Luminescence (IRSL) dating and compare the results with those determined by cutting edge techniques such as thermally transferred OSL, IR radiofluorescence and red IRSL emissions from K-feldspar. Using these approaches it should be possible to date sediments as old as 500 ka. Due to the innovative character of these techniques, this WP will comprise a detailed experimental part. Considering the complexity of different dating techniques, this part of the project will by carried out by a person with experience in the field (postdoc).
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Luminescence dating of mammoth remains from northern Switzerland
Gaar Dorian, Preusser Frank (2012), Luminescence dating of mammoth remains from northern Switzerland, in Quaternary Geochronology, 10, 257-263.

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
117079 International symposium on luminescence 01.07.2007 International Exploratory Workshops
119615 Quaternary accumulation and erosion of sediment in the drainage basins of the western escarpment of the Peruvian Andes: The role of climate variations 01.06.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)
121680 Chronology of sediment accumulation and surface erosion in the western Peruvian Andes in response to climate variations during the Quaternary: cosmogenic nuclide analysis, OSL dating and modelling 01.01.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)
105188 Quaternary accumulation and erosion of sediment in the drainage basins of the western escarpment of the Peruvian Andes: The role of climate variations 01.06.2005 Project funding (Div. I-III)
121042 International symposium on luminescence 01.07.2008 International Exploratory Workshops
121671 Global environmental change: The challenge of establishing chronologies for Middle and Late Pleistocene glaciations in both hemispheres 01.11.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)
125304 Glaciation history and environmental evolution of overdeepened valleys in the northern Alpine Foreland: A deep drill hole at the mammoth site in Niederweningen, northern Switzerland 01.04.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)
144456 Quaternary glaciation and environmental history of the Alps: Establishing chronologies for Middle Pleistocene deposits from northern Switzerland 01.02.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Deciphering the past dynamics of circulation systems and its impact on continental environments is a fundamental requirement for understanding the presently observed climate change and its possible consequences for human societies. In particular, it is still poorly understood how the geosphere responded to Quaternary climate change on different temporal as well as spatial scales. Within this context, we propose to reconstruct the glaciation history of the northern Swiss lowlands, where a variety of proglacial sedimentary sequences are well exposed in different gravel pits and natural outcrops. Recent research has shown that the Quaternary record of the region is much more complex than previously assumed. Investigating this geological record will allow a detailed reconstruction of the geological past, where and when glaciers advanced into the Swiss lowland. However, until recently, the lack of an independently dated chronological framework prevented the placement of this exceptional geological archive within a global context. We will use state-of-the-art approaches of both luminescence as well as cosmogenic nuclide dating for determining the Quaternary deposition history of the area. The project is subdivided into three linked work packages (WP) that will focus on different time slices.WP 1 will focus on the number of glacial advances during the Late Pleistocene. Detailed sedimentological logging and Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating of quartz will be used to establish an independent chronological framework for the deposits. Prior to dating a detailed testing program will be carried out to characterise the OSL properties of the investigated samples and find the optimal measurement conditions. This work will be done within a PhD project.WP 2 will concentrate on establishing the chronology of the Middle Pleistocene deposits of the area. We will use conventional OSL and Infrared Stimulated Luminescence (IRSL) dating and compare the results with those determined by cutting edge techniques such as thermally transferred OSL, IR radiofluorescence and red IRSL emissions from K-feldspar. Using these approaches it should be possible to date sediments as old as 500 ka. Due to the innovative character of these techniques, this WP will comprise a detailed experimental part. Considering the complexity of different dating techniques, this part of the project will by carried out by a person with experience in the field (postdoc).WP 3 will use cosmogenic isotopes 10Be and 26Al for the dating of Early and Middle Pleistocene deposits of the so-called ‘Deckenschotter’ as well as deeply buried sediments recovered from sediment sequences from overdeepend valleys. Previous experiences with this recently developed dating technique are very promising and it appears appropriate to move forward to an extended field study with this method. We will start with investigating the properties modern sediments, then date deposits of known age and continue to date samples of unknown age. Age control is available for old deposits by vertebrate palaeontology and, for younger (late Middle Pleistocene) deposits, through luminescence dating.The different WP’s will be linked and there will be several opportunities to cross-check the dating results. We expect that the proposed project will result in an important step forward to establishing directly dated chronostratigraphies for Quaternary proglacial deposits.
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