Temperature and precipitation signal in two Alpine ice cores over the period 1961–2001
1Paul Scherrer Institut, Villigen, Switzerland
2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
3Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
4Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark
5Physics Institute, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
6Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Abstract. Water stable isotope ratios and net snow accumulation in ice cores are usually interpreted as temperature and precipitation proxies. However, only in a few cases a direct calibration with instrumental data has been attempted. In this study we took advantage of the dense network of observations in the European Alpine region to rigorously test the relationship of the proxy data from two highly-resolved ice cores with local temperature and precipitation, respectively, on an annual basis. We focused on the time period 1961–2001 with the highest amount and quality of meteorological data and the minimal uncertainty in ice core dating (±1 yr). The two ice cores come from Fiescherhorn glacier (Northern Alps, 3900 m a.s.l.) and Grenzgletscher (Southern Alps, 4200 m a.s.l.). Due to the orographic barrier, the two flanks of the Alpine chain are affected by distinct patterns of precipitation. Therefore, the different location of the two ice cores offers the unique opportunity to test whether the precipitation proxy reflects this very local condition. We obtained a significant spatial correlation between annual δ18O and regional temperature at Fiescherhorn. Due to the pronounced intraseasonal to interannual variability of precipitation at Grenzgletscher, significant results were only found when weighting the temperature with precipitation. For this site, disentangling the temperature from the precipitation signal was thus not possible. Significant spatial correlations between net accumulation and precipitation were found for both sites but required the record from the Fiescherhorn glacier to be shifted by −1 yr (within the dating uncertainty). The study underlines that even for well-resolved ice core records, interpretation of proxies on an annual or even sub-annual basis remains critical. This is due to both, dating issues and the fact that the signal preservation intrinsically depends on precipitation.