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Journal Articles Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica Year : 2015

The last maximum ice extent and subsequent deglaciation of the Pyrenees : an overview of recent research

M. Delmas


This paper reviews data currently available on the glacial fluctuations that occurred in the Pyrenees between the Würmian Maximum Ice Extent (MIE) and the beginning of the Holocene. It puts the studies published since the end of the 19th century in a historical perspective and focuses on how the methods of investigation used by successive generations of authors led them to paleogeographic and chronologic conclusions that for a time were antagonistic and later became complementary. The inventory and mapping of the ice-marginal deposits has allowed several glacial stades to be identified, and the successive ice boundaries to be outlined. Meanwhile, the weathering grade of moraines and glaciofluvial deposits has allowed Würmian glacial deposits to be distinguished from pre-Würmian ones, and has thus allowed the Würmian Maximum Ice Extent (MIE) –i.e. the starting point of the last deglaciation– to be clearly located. During the 1980s, 14 C dating of glaciolacustrine sequences began to indirectly document the timing of the glacial stades responsible for the adjacent frontal or lateral moraines. Over the last decade, in situ-produced cosmogenic nuclides (10 Be and 36 Cl) have been documenting the deglaciation process more directly because the data are obtained from glacial landforms or deposits such as boulders embedded in frontal or lateral moraines, or ice-polished rock surfaces. On that basis, it is now accepted that (i) the Würmian MIE occurred in the Pyrenees during MIS 4 and not the Global LGM; and that (ii) a major glacial readvance took place during the Global LGM. This ice readvance reached a position close to the MIS 4 icefield boundary in the Eastern part of the range, but apparently not in the west. (iii) Soon after the Global LGM, the Pyrenean ice margin went into major and rapid recession. Even before the beginning of the Lateglacial, the main trunk glaciers had already retreated to the upper parts of the valleys. (iv) The paleogeography of the Pyrenean icefield during the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (LGIT) is still partially unknown but all available data indicate that glaciers during the Oldest Dryas (GS-2a) were substantially smaller than during the Global LGM. During the Bølling-Allerød interstadial, the Pyrenean ice margins retreated substantially, and glaciers
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Dates and versions

hal-01240473 , version 1 (09-12-2015)


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M. Delmas. The last maximum ice extent and subsequent deglaciation of the Pyrenees : an overview of recent research. Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica, 2015, 41 (2), p. 359-387. ⟨10.18172/cig.2708⟩. ⟨hal-01240473⟩
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