The retreating and advancing of glaciers over long periods of times carved out the valleys and steep slopes of the Alps, transporting sediment of rock and smaller and debris across vast landscapes. Researcher Julien Seguinot from ETH Zurich’s Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology was able to simulate the changing glacier patterns of the Alps. The simulation is part of a study aimed to better understand the expansion and contraction of glaciers in this time period starts just before the beginning of the last glacial period from 120,000 years ago.
This was created using a model that combines paleo-climate knowledge of topography, physical properties of the rock, heat flow from interior Earth and past climate to simulate an accurate representation of glacial movement. The results supported a theory that many of these glaciers advanced and retreated more than previously thought: about 10 times since the start of the ice age.
Glaciers expanded the furthest 25,000 years ago where it reached areas of now Bern, Zurich, Schaffhausen and nearly Munich. This simulation also estimates that ice may have been much thicker than previously understood.We are still in an ice age, which is defined as at least one of the Earth’s poles being covered year-round by ice. A few thousand years after the furthest expansion of these glaciers, we entered the inter-glacial period we are in now. A more detailed summary of the study and its implications is given by the organization that provided the super-computer most of this work was done through.