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Little Ice Age glaciers in the Mediterranean mountains

Glaciers du petit âge de glace en Méditerranée
Philip D. Hughes
p. 63-79


Only a few small glaciers survive today in the Mountains of the Mediterranean. Notable examples are found in the Pyrenees, Maritime Alps, Italian Apennines, the Dinaric and Albanian Alps and the mountains of Turkey. Many glaciers disappeared during the 20th Century. Glaciers were much larger and more numerous during the Little Ice Age. Small glaciers even existed as far south as the High Atlas of Morocco and the Sierra Nevada of southern Spain. In more northerly areas, such as the western Balkans, glaciers and permanent snow fields occupied hundreds of cirques on relatively low-lying mountains. In the High Atlas and the Sierra Nevada no glaciers exist today, whilst in the Balkans only a few modern glaciers have been reported (<10). A similar situation is apparent throughout the mountains of the Mediterranean region. This paper presents new evidence for glacier change since the Little Ice Age and reviews the extent, timing and climatic significance of Little Ice Age glaciation in all the main mountain areas.

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1 - The mountains of the Mediterranean region
2 - Defining the Little Ice Age from a glacier perspective
3 - Modern glaciers in the Mediterranean mountains: Little Ice Age to present
3.1 - Iberia
3.2 - Pyrenees (France, Spain & Andorra)
3.3 - Maritime Alps (France & Italy)
3.4 - Apennines (Italy)
3.5 - Julian Alps (Slovenia)
3.6 - Dinaric and Albanian Alps (Montenegro and Bosnia)
3.7 - Bulgaria
3.8 - Greece
3.9 - Turkey
3.10 - High Atlas (Morocco)
4 ‑ Future glacier prospects in the Mediterranean mountains
5 - Conclusions

First lines

1 - The mountains of the Mediterranean region

The Mediterranean Sea is almost encircled by mountains, with the exception of the southeastern area in North Africa (Fig. 1).

Map of the Mediterranean region showing the location of some of the sites mentioned in this paper

Map of the Mediterranean region showing the location of some of the sites mentioned in this paper

Definitions of what constitutes a Mediterranean mountain area can include areas that drain into the Mediterranean basin. However, this would exclude important areas of southern Europe such as the Picos de Europa in Iberia and the Toubkal Massif in the High Atlas. Furthermore it would also include the central Alps, which are often not considered as Mediterranean, although the southernmost Maritime Alps are. This review follows HUGHES et al., (2006a) and HUGHES and WOODWARD, (2009) and includes a review of glaciers in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. This flexible approach also allows for inclusion of countries such as Bulgaria, which has similarities with nearby Balkan countries.


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Electronic reference

Philip D. Hughes, « Little Ice Age glaciers in the Mediterranean mountains », Méditerranée [Online], 122 | 2014, Online since 19 June 2016, connection on 19 November 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/mediterranee.7146

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About the author

Philip D. Hughes

Quaternary Environments and Geoarchaeology Research Group, School of Environment, Education and Development, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL - United Kingdom,

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