GAGE Project

GIS DATABASE FOR GLACIATION
OF THE CARPATHIAN MOUNTAINS

Juraj Janocko

PROJECT BACKGROUND AND PERSPECTIVES

Glacial deposits and glaciated terrains form a significant proportion of the Earth's surface. Understanding variability of these systems is of crucial importance for predicting climatic changes in the future. It is generally accepted that global climatic changes in the past were forced by cyclical astronomic variations explained by Milankovitch theory. This is particularly valid for the Quaternary stage characterized by the most intensive and relatively short periods of warm, interglacial and interstadial periods alternating with cooler periods of climate. In spite of the very complex theory, the modeling of climate variations shows that our knowledge is still only fragmentary and new data are needed to obtain evidence about the validity of the theory. Human activity, which has an impact on the environment, adds a new component for climate prediction. The improvement of our knowledge and understanding of the role of the "natural" and "anthropogenic" component in climate evolution means a contribution to the long- and short-term prediction of the climate.

A suitable "field laboratory" where delicate short-term climate changes can be studied is the Carpathian Mountains extending from Slovakia and Poland through the Ukraine to Romania. Glacial sediment sequences and glacial morphology within the mountains are archives of natural climatic variations in the past. A possible correlation with the neighboring Alpine region with relatively well-established glacial chronology can verify results obtained and provide linkage between the east and west regions with a possibility to link the Carpathian region glaciated by mountain glaciers to the regions with continental glaciation during Quaternary.

GENERAL OBJECTIVE

The project includes assembling of data showing temporal and spatial distribution of the glaciation in the Carpathian Mountains of central Europe. The data will be used as a GIS database on the extent and chronology of Pleistocene and Holocene glaciation within the Carpathian Mountains. The results of the project will be used both for basic (e.g. stratigraphy, climatology) and applied (e.g. environmental, hydrogeology) research.

GELOGICAL SETTING OF THE CARPATHIAN MOUNTAINS

The Carpathian Mountains are a part of the Europian Alpine system. They are divided into West, East and South Carpathians according to their geomorphologic position and geologic structure. The West Carpathians are situated in the territory of Slovakia and Poland, East Carpathians in the territory of the Ukraine, and South Carpathians in the territory of Romania. Their conspicuous sigmoidal shape is thought to be a result of a collision and differential movement of large blocks, which is connected with the south- and west-vergent subduction of oceanic crust of the Europian and Moesis platforms. The deformation was diachronous along the Carpathian Mountain chain, the youngest deformation occurred in the East Carpathians. The main morphostructures in the West Carpathians were established in the Middle and Late Miocene, in the East and South Carpathians the main morphostructures were established at the end of the Neogene. The recent morphology is a result of glacial and periglacial processes during Pleistocene combined with Quaternary tectonics.

During the Pleistocene a periglacial climate prevailed in the area of the Carpathians. This is well recorded by the Pleistocene deposits and by the occurrence of typical periglacial geomorphic forms. Huge periglacial alluvial fans at the foothill of high mountains suggest intensive glacial activity in their source areas. The highest elevations were subjected to mountain glaciation. It is not exactly known what was the snowline elevation during glaciation. The glacial deposits and glacial forms are found at elevations above 1000 m in the High Tatras located in the West Carpathians. This elevation is expected to be the average snow line elevation during the Pleistocene. The glacial deposits and glacial morphologic forms occurring in the Carpathian Mountains are of Middle and Late Pleistocene age. The best preserved deposits are from the last glaciation occurring in the Late Pleistocene.

METHODOLOGY

The study will be performed by research groups in Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, and the Ukraine. The work will include assembling of the previous, archival studies and performance of some new field and laboratory work. Archive work should be done at the first stage of the project. This should include evaluation of all reports, publications and maps concerning glaciated areas in the Carpathians. The next step will be collection of data from areas which have not yet been studied. This assumes geological and geomorphological studies. Remote sensing will be applied for areas under study. The work should be done with the same methodology in all countries. After collecting of all data a synthesis of archive work and new data will be done. Results will be discussed among national groups. The final result of the work should be summary maps showing the extent and chronology of alpine glaciation in each country, GIS digital files containing all this information, reports, and articles presented at international meetings.

The Carpathian project of GAGE began to organize in 1998 and has continued to develop a strategy for assembling existing data and collecting new field information. Initial field observations were conducted in Slovakia and Poland in 2000--see GAGE conference, and this led to publication of some preliminary results--see Slovak Geological Magazine (2001). An update of progress will be given at the INQUA Congress in 2003.

Main coordination of the Carpathian glaciation project will take place at the Dept. of Geology and Mineralogy, Technical University Košice, Slovakia, under the direction of Juraj Janocko and Milos Kovácik.

PROJECT LEADERS

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Last update: 16 Sept. 2002.