19 Dec 2022
 | 19 Dec 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

The effects of diachronous surface uplift of the European Alps on regional climate and the oxygen isotopic composition of precipitation

Daniel Boateng, Sebastian G. Mutz, Armelle Ballian, Maud J. M. Meijers, Katharina Methner, Svetlana Botsyun, Andreas Mulch, and Todd A. Ehlers

Abstract. The European Alps are hypothesized to have experienced diachronous surface uplift in response to post-collisional processes such as, e.g., slab break-off. Therefore, understanding the geodynamic and geomorphic evolution of the Alps requires knowledge of its surface uplift history. This study presents the simulated response of regional climate and oxygen isotopic composition of precipitation (δ18Op) to different along-strike topographic evolution scenarios. These responses are modeled to determine if diachronous surface uplift in the Western and Eastern Alps would produce δ18Op signals in the geologic record that are sufficiently large and distinct for stable isotope paleoaltimetry. This is tested with a series of sensitivity experiments conducted with the water isotope tracking atmospheric General Circulation Model (GCM) ECHAM5-wiso. The topographic scenarios are created from the variation of two free parameters, (1) the elevation of the West-Central Alps and (2) the elevation of the Eastern Alps. Results suggest significant changes in the spatial patterns of δ18Op, the elevation-dependent rate of change in δ18Op (“isotopic lapse rate”), near-surface temperatures, precipitation amounts, and atmospheric circulation patterns in response to the different scenarios. The predictions for the diachronous surface uplift experiments are distinctly different from simulations forced with present-day topography and for simulations where the entire Alps experience synchronous surface uplift. Topographic scenarios with higher elevations in the West-Central Alps produce higher magnitude changes and an expansion of the affected geographical domain surrounding the Alps when compared to present-day topography. Furthermore, differences in δ18Op values of up to −2 to −8 ‰ are predicted along the strike of the Alps for the diachronous uplift scenarios, suggesting that the signal can be preserved and measured in geologic archives. Lastly, the results highlight the importance of sampling far-field and low-elevation sites using the δ-δ paleoaltimetry approach to discern between different surface uplift histories.

Daniel Boateng et al.

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on esd-2022-48', Joel Saylor, 20 Jan 2023 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Daniel Boateng, 16 Mar 2023 reply

Daniel Boateng et al.

Daniel Boateng et al.


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Short summary
We present model-based topographic sensitivity experiments that provide valuable constraints for interpreting past proxies and records of climate and tectonic processes. The study uses a climate model to quantify the response of regional climate and oxygen isotopic composition of precipitation to the diachronous surface uplift scenarios across the European Alps. The results suggest that isotopic signal changes can be measured in geologic archives using stable isotope paleoaltimetry.