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20 December 2012

Die neue Weltordnung der Tiere: Wallace-Karte nach fast 150 Jahren aktualisiert...

18 December 2012

(Fleder)Mäuse als Krankheitsüberträger - Untersuchungen zu Vektoren in Hessens Wäldern...

03 December 2012

Rapid test to save lives of snakebite victims . New diagnostic test awarded 1st prize at the Göttingen Innovation Competition...

22 November 2012

Online-Portal zum Klimawissen wächst...

20 November 2012

Midges in a heat-based test of endurance – evolutionary history determines adaptability to high temperatures...

11 October 2012

„Feed the World 2050“ – Veranstaltung zum Welternährungstag 2012: Wie ernährt man neun Milliarden Menschen nachhaltig? Ernährungssicherung der Zukunft...

21 September 2012

Schutz für die Heimat der Drachenblutbäume: BiK-F, Senckenberg, GIZ und jemenitische Umweltagentur vereinbaren Zusammenarbeit im UNESCO-Weltnaturerbe Sokotra...

17 September 2012

Veranstaltungdreiklang: Vorträge und Diskussionen zur Nachhaltigkeit ...

14 September 2012

Teamwork in the tropics – pollinators and frugivores are less choosy at the equator...

04 September 2012

Pinguine in der Patsche: Neue Zahlen zu Pinguin-Rückgang auf sich erwärmender Antarktischer Halbinsel...

30 August 2012

Klimaentwicklung ist keine Einbahnstraße - Tiefsee-Bohrungen zeigen langfristige Entwicklung des CO2-Kreislaufs...

01 August 2012

Tropical climate in the Antarctic: Palm trees once thrived on today’s icy coasts 52 million years ago...

06 July 2012

Outstanding for the past 15 million years – the Swiss Alps have influenced Europe’s climate since the Miocene ...

05 July 2012

Pilze für die Zukunft: Neuer LOEWE-Schwerpunkt „Integrative Pilzforschung (IPF)“...

28 June 2012

Tree trumps grass to rule the savannas...

26 June 2012

Auf Mückenfang im Auftrag der Wissenschaft - Frankfurter Wissenschaftler unterstützen „Jugend forscht!“ Projekt in Bad Vilbel...

25 June 2012

Vortrag: Tropenkrankheiten – jetzt auch in Europa?...

11 June 2012

Vortrag im Senckenberg: Toxische Lebensretter - Einsatz von Tiergiften in der modernen Arzneiforschung ...

04 June 2012

Unscheinbar und doch gewaltig: Flechten, Algen und Moose sind Großspeicher für Stickstoff und Kohlendioxid...

31 May 2012

Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum vereinbart Kooperation mit Nationalpark Kellerwald-Edersee...

25 May 2012

Allergie durch Klimawandel? - Vortrag aus der Reihe „Natur wirkt!?“...

14 May 2012

Vortrag: Gesundes Stadtgrün – wie Park und Co. unsere Lebensqualität steigern...

10 May 2012

Globaler Online-Atlas der Arten – Großprojekt „Map of Life“ geht an den Start...

07 May 2012

Der BIOTA West Atlas – 10 Jahre Biodiversitätsforschung in einem Buch ...

26 April 2012

Gefährliche Gäste – Parasiten: Vortrag aus der Reihe „Natur wirkt!?“...

24 April 2012

Ein genetischer Personalausweis für Pilze...

20 April 2012

Polar bears are evolutionarily older and genetically more distinct than previously known: ancestry traced back to 600,000 years ago...

17 April 2012

Evolution: Vangas beat Darwin’s finches in diversity ...

10 April 2012

Vortrag: Medizin am seidenen Faden – neue Anwendungsgebiete für Spinnen...

22 March 2012

Viren aus dem Regenwald - Vortrag aus der Reihe „Natur wirkt!?“...

12 March 2012

Neue Senckenberg-Vortragsreihe „Natur wirkt?!“...

29 February 2012

Standing still in running water - Lotic dragon- and damselfly species are less able to track climate change...

24 February 2012

Blick aufs große Ganze – Jahrestagung des Arbeitskreises Makroökologie der Gesellschaft für Ökologie ...

06 February 2012

Klimawandel: Warum aus Wissen so wenig Handeln wird – Podiumsdiskussion mit Harald Welzer und Hans-Werner Sinn...

24 January 2012

Where there’s a worm there’s a whale – First distribution model of marine parasites provides revealing insights...

23 January 2012

Rahmstorf kommt...

10 January 2012

Rettet uns Geo-Engineering vor dem Klimawandel? ...

05 January 2012

Inselhopping zahlt sich aus - Studie unterstreicht Bedeutung des Verbreitungsgebiets bei der Artbildung ...

Press Releases

Outstanding for the past 15 million years – the Swiss Alps have influenced Europe’s climate since the Miocene

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, July 6, 2012. Switzerland’s highest peaks in the geologically young central Alps have been this high for quite some time, as a new study shows. 15 million years ago Europe’s own mountain range was at least as high as today. Scientists at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), the Goethe University in Frankfurt and the ETH Zurich compared the isotopic ratios of water and oxygen in rocks in the Alps and Alpine foreland and were able to determine the height of the peaks in the past. The study was recently published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Interestingly, the history of the topography of the European Alps, which are certainly the best-studied mountain range in the world, is virtually unknown. A new study is likely to reveal more, as it shows the topography of the central Alps seen today has its roots 15 million years ago. At that time the highest peaks in Switzerland were between 2,850 and 3,350 metres high. As such, the mountain range was on average even higher than today. “This leads us to conclude that the bulk of Alpine topography was built over 15 million years ago, when Europe collided with Africa and the accretion rates exceeded removal by erosion at the same time”, explains Marion Campani, the lead author of the study at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F).

Alps have influenced precipitation in southern Europe for 15 million years
High mountain ranges form a natural obstacle for moist air masses and can affect the climate on both sides of it. Their height is the decisive factor. The new findings therefore lead to conclusions about precipitation patterns in southern Europe and Eurasia and indirectly about conditions for the development of entire ecosystems in the Mediterranean as well. This means that the Alps as they have towered this region for the past 15 million years have determined the transport of precipitation since then from the Atlantic toward central Europe and Eurasia. Therefore the mountain range had a crucial effect on the climate in the eastern Mediterranean. “In the past this region was repeatedly threatened by drought and is a hotspot for water shortages associated with global warming. If you want to understand the climate of the past and derive projections from the future of the region from it, you can’t avoid the Alps”, says Prof. Dr. Andreas Mulch, BiK-F and Goethe University Frankfurt.

Previous height determined by geochemical traces of precipitation
How high mountains were during their history can be reconstructed by means of oxygen isotopes. Preserved in rocks, they store information about precipitation in the past over millions of years. This works because both elements occur as differently weighted isotopes. With increasing amounts of precipitation the proportion of heavy isotopes of oxygen systematically decreases. So the ratio of heavy to light isotopes in ancient rainwater tells you how high the area was the precipitation fell unto at a particular period. In a novel approach the researchers compared for the first time precipitation from the Alpine foreland (which were approximately at sea level at the time) and from the former highland areas of the Alps. Thus they were able to determine the relative difference in the height of the mountains compared to the planes. “In addition, mountains over a certain height are capable of influencing the climate and continental rainfall patterns themselves. Which is why we also have to consider the moisture source so we can take account of initial changes in the composition and amount of precipitation in the isotope analysis”, says Campani about the method of the study.

Press images

Alps

15 million old traces of precipitation in the Central Alps reveal the ancient height of the mountain range. Copyright: Marion Campani, BiK-F [Download in 300 dpi]

Terms of use:  Images may be used for editorial purposes only. Please state the copyright information as given in the image caption. Use of images for commercial purposes prohibited.

For further information please contact:

Dr. Marion Campani
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F)
Phone +49 69 7542 1883
marion.campani@senckenberg.de

Prof. A. Mulch
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F) & Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Phone +49 69 7542 1800
andreas.mulch@senckenberg.de

or

Sabine Wendler
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F),
Press officer
Phone +49 69 7542 1838
sabine.wendler@senckenberg.de

Paper: Campani, M., et al. (2012): Miocene paleotopography of the Central Alps. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2012.05.017

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