EGU23-8283, updated on 25 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Englacial transport time of rock debris: new constraints from luminescence rock surface burial dating

Audrey Margirier1, Georgina King1, Christoph Schmidt1, Julien Brondex2, and Ann Rowan3
Audrey Margirier et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland (
  • 2University Grenoble Alpes - Université de Toulouse - Météo-France - CNRS - CNRM, Centre d’Etudes de la Neige, Grenoble, France.
  • 3Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway.

In recent decades, most mountain glaciers have been losing mass in response to climate change, and the area of the ablation zone covered by rock debris is expanding. Debris-covered glaciers are expected to have a longer life expectancy than climatically equivalent clean-ice glaciers because supraglacial debris insulates the underlying ice surface and reduces ablation. In order to accurately predict how debris-covered glaciers will evolve under a changing climate it is essential to quantify the processes controlling their behaviour. We used luminescence rock surface burial dating to constrain the englacial transport time of debris within an alpine debris-covered glacier. We collected 24 samples embedded in the ice in the ablation zone of the Miage Glacier, in the Mont-Blanc Massif (Italy). The natural luminescence signal of rock slices was measured from the surface to a depth of ~10 mm using a protocol comprising IRSL50, IRSL225 and OSL125 measurements. Nine of our samples showed a plateau within the first 2 to 3 discs suggesting that the luminescence signal has the potential to be used to date the burial duration of debris. Among them, 5 and 7 samples passed the dose recovery test for the IR50 signal within 10% and 20% of unity respectively. Only 3 samples passed the dose recovery test for the IR225 signal within 10% of unity. After 24h bleaching in the solar simulator, typical residual doses are as high as 20-40% of the natural equivalent dose measured. We obtained preliminary non fading corrected ages for 5 samples in the range from ~0.8 to ~11 ka. Glacier model estimated englacial rock debris transport times are an order of magnitude lower than the oldest ages obtained suggesting either that some clasts were stored on hillslopes or within moraines prior to englacial transport or that calibration issues may have contributed to age overestimation. Further luminescence signal processing quality checks are required to assess the quality of our ages. If ultimately successful, our results, and the application of luminescence rock surface burial dating to englacially transported debris, will enhance understanding of the dynamics of debris-covered glaciers and inform the use of glacier models for debris covered glaciers, which will improve projections of the contribution of mountain glaciers to the sustainability of water resources in vulnerable catchments such as those in High Mountain Asia and South America.

How to cite: Margirier, A., King, G., Schmidt, C., Brondex, J., and Rowan, A.: Englacial transport time of rock debris: new constraints from luminescence rock surface burial dating, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8283,, 2023.