Eastern Alps may have been ice-free in the time of Ötzi the Iceman

From The New Scientist

Glaciers in the Ötztal Alps in Austria are currently melting and may be lost within two decades, but this might not be the first time humans have seen this kind of change. A new analysis reveals that glaciers in this region formed just before or perhaps even within the lifetime of Ötzi the Iceman, a mummified body found just 12 kilometres away in 1991.

Pascal Bohleber at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and his colleagues drilled 11 metres into the Weißseespitze summit glacier, down to the bedrock, at 3500 metres altitude and collected two ice cores. They then used radiocarbon dating to  analyse microscopic bits of organic material extracted from the ice cores and found that the glacier is 5200 to 6600 years old. Ötzi is thought to have lived between 5100 and 5300 years ago, and his body was found preserved in ice.

The glacier’s age means it formed during a time called the mid-Holocene warm period, when Earth’s climate was warmer than it is now. It is also dome-shaped, which Bohleber says is rare in the Alps and means that the ice has seen very little movement over time, meaning we can use it to study the climate when it formed.

Read more: Ötzi the Iceman’s last journey revealed by moss found in his stomach

“More information on the mid-Holocene warm period, when the glaciers were smaller than today, is direly needed so that we can better predict how the glaciers will respond to the anticipated future climate over the next 50 years,” says Bethan Davies at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Comparing ice cores from different sites tells us quite a bit about the past climate in that region, says Bohleber, but that gets harder as the glaciers thaw. Meltwater makes it more difficult to drill for ice cores and causes the glaciers to slide downhill, exposing the ancient ice to modern contaminants.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2263399-eastern-alps-may-have-been-ice-free-in-the-time-of-otzi-the-iceman/#ixzz6hDkuLfkW

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December 21, 2020 10:22 am

Give it a rest. The poor guy has already fueled a tabloid industry and publication swarm in a mini version of global warming extrapolation for fun and salary advancement. Who will be the one to sneak in a Stonehenge trinket in his satchel?

No one
Reply to  ResourceGuy
December 21, 2020 10:32 am

Or a tiny ‘grey’ statuette.

December 21, 2020 10:29 am

Here in Austria we already made jokes since his discovery in 1991 about the fact that Ötzis clothing was inappropriate for glaciers. As far as I remember the joke it is: “Why must Ötzi have been a tourist from Germany? Because only they are crazy/dumb enough to hike our glaciers with sandals.”
Ötzis clothes look like a collection of quickly assembled furs with sandals to adapt to a cooling that was an unpleasant surprise to the people at his lifetime.

Reply to  Gerald
December 21, 2020 11:28 am

Have we forgotten ‘The green alps;’ carried at Climate Audit nearly 15 years ago?

Green Alps #1 « Climate Audit

Reply to  Gerald
December 21, 2020 1:36 pm

Otzi did not die on the glacier. He was buried there in a ceremonial burial. That is why the copper ax and other goods were there. They were grave offerings. That also explains the mismatch in seasons between the contents of his stomach and the pollen on his clothes.

This then means than it was not just one lost guy up there. An entire groups went up the mountain and took a dead body with them.

Reply to  Carol
December 21, 2020 2:03 pm

I hadn’t heard that before.
I though that Otzi died from an injury from a fight, and fled hoping to recover, but didn’t . . .
Assumptions – like mine – are easy.
Humans are story-tellers.

Reply to  auto
December 21, 2020 3:51 pm

Otzi was never buried, except in snow and ice.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Carol
December 21, 2020 3:41 pm

Do you have pictures? I don’t trust you memory on a funeral you went to so long ago.

Kone Wone
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
December 22, 2020 10:06 pm

It’s rude to comment on a lady’s age.

Reply to  Carol
December 21, 2020 3:49 pm

I’ve always wondered where these nonsensical stories get started. Carol, nothing you have to say matches the forensic evidence.

Reply to  MarkW
December 21, 2020 5:57 pm

I found a story that describes a paper about Otzi’s ‘burial’. It reminds me of this comment by Mark Twain:

Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific people, and ‘let on’ to prove what had occurred in the remote past by what had occurred in a given time in the recent past, or what will occur in the far future by what has occurred in late years, what an opportunity is here! Geology never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from! Nor ‘development of species,’ either! Glacial epochs are great things, but they are vague–vague. Please observe:–

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period,’ just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.


I wish I could find the link but the details went something like this: Obama gave a speech to some people who were receiving technical training. He commented that at least they could get jobs. A professor of English literature objected. She said her students had to perform their analyses based on scanty evidence. Maybe she was implying that her students were more worthy than mere masters of technology. I, on the other hand, have visions of the Mississippi jutting out over the Gulf of Mexico.

Reply to  Carol
December 21, 2020 5:43 pm

Rather than stating things as facts, it’s better to be properly skeptical about what you have read.

link: somebody’s theory

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Carol
December 21, 2020 11:32 pm

Having seen the actual mummy, it is highly unlikely he was buried, ceremonially, in such a contorted position and with an arrow head embedded in his back. Where do you people come up with such nonsense?

Climate believer
Reply to  Rory Forbes
December 22, 2020 6:55 am

Yes, highly unlikely it was a burial. He was found at over 3200m (11,000ft) in a gully, next to the Similaun Glacier. A highly unusual spot for any such ceremony, with no indication of him being placed.

He was probably either hiding or resting in that gully, using it as protection. The gully didn’t save him but it did serve as a 5000 year old tomb, allowing the glacier to slide over the top.

Apart from the arrow wound, they also found blood clotting at the back of the brain suggestive of a blow to the head.

Reply to  Rory Forbes
December 22, 2020 9:09 am

He wasn’t buried, there was no dirt covering the body.

December 21, 2020 10:36 am

This isn’t news. It’s just being ignored by the alarmists because it’s so darn inconvenient. I like glaciers a lot because they are hard to spoof or misinterpret. You can make tree rings say whatever you want but glaciers … not so much.

Ron Long
December 21, 2020 10:39 am

Here we have another excellent example of the climate variation just in the Holocene, which is the end of severe glaciation, about 11,500 years ago, up to today, and includes intervals both warmer and colder than today. So once again we see that there is no signal of anything unusual, with respect to the climate, detectable against the noisy background of natural and normal variation. The CAGW crowd is a bunch of nazi’s looking for control and power. Enough, already.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  Ron Long
December 21, 2020 11:25 am

Exactly. Otzi and all the tree stumps being exposed as glaciers melt is all the proof anyone could ever wish for showing that today’s warmth is nothing unusual and not our fault. Greta take note.

BTW, the Otzi museum in Bolzano, South Tirol is well worth a visit…we spent half a day there and didn’t see everything.

michael hart
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
December 22, 2020 12:02 am

Did anyone ever unequivocally establish where Hannibal crossed the Alps?

Only a few years ago I recall reading of Roman encampments on high Alpine passes being recently revealed by retreating snow fields and glaciers. They certainly seem to bolster the evidence for less glaciation during a “Roman Warm Period” which was at least as warm as today.

Reply to  michael hart
December 22, 2020 6:53 am

I see your point, big time, but it ws the Carthaginians who would have camped there, yes? But you say “Roman encampments”. You meant Hannibal’s?

Reply to  michael hart
December 24, 2020 5:49 am

Tracing Hannibal’s Elephants — With Dung (forbes.com)

According to Livy Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 21, Summary, periocha libri XXI (tufts.edu), Hannibal lost half his men and all but one of his elephants due to the cold in crossing he Alps. Yet two centuries later, Caesar crossed the Alps farther north & east with his legions and never mentioned the weather or even ice in his Commentaries…C. Julius Caesar, De bello Gallico, COMMENTARIUS PRIMUS, chapter 1, section 1 (tufts.edu).which are otherwise replete with detailed descriptions of the geography & natural history encountered on his expeditions to Transalpine Gaul.

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
December 22, 2020 6:06 pm

Yes,was there last 0ct,19. What was really interesting were all the theories raised about the culture based on the bits and pieces of clothing, possible weapons and possible medications found near the body.
More than a few academics made the claim that he was some kind of traveling shaman, based on very scant evidence.
After awhile it was like well now just wat amin and backup here, ok?

David Blenkinsop
December 21, 2020 10:48 am

So layers of snow accumulated on top of this person on such a way that he was directly compressed into a forming glacier — must be a rare occurrence?

Many are cold, but few are frozen!

Bill Powers
Reply to  David Blenkinsop
December 21, 2020 11:00 am


Reply to  David Blenkinsop
December 21, 2020 11:07 am

He wasn’t compressed, he was mummified.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  David Blenkinsop
December 21, 2020 11:46 am

Yes, he was incorporated into the forming glacier. It is thought that it snowed right after he died so he wasn’t eaten by raptors or foxes, etc. He died right next to a rock ledge in a little rock basin so his body was not torn apart by the movement of the main glacial mass overhead. Thus most of his remains, eg. weapons, clothing, etc. are confined to a relatively small area and have been recovered. Even his tattoos are preserved. Interestingly the DNA recovered from his spear has remains of blood from several different humans! He died from an arrow still lodged in his shoulder. Times were tough back then!

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
December 21, 2020 12:27 pm

Maybe they were killing all the warmists as the ice advanced…

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
December 21, 2020 12:36 pm

No funding of police back then

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
December 21, 2020 1:37 pm

No, he did not die there. It is a ceremonial burial. There is an academic paper on it, with lots of evidence. That is why the copper ax was left with the body.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Carol
December 21, 2020 2:06 pm

You have posted this twice. Please provide a link to the paper.

Fight Climate Fear. Warmer is better.

Reply to  Carol
December 21, 2020 3:53 pm

Just because someone put together a paper is not evidence that they have the slightest clue what they are talking about.
I’m willing to bet that this person you are quoting has never actually examined the body or where he was found.

Reply to  MarkW
December 22, 2020 7:02 am

Sorry. No offense intended, but getting a paper published in a peer reviewed journal is genuinely evidence that they DO know what they are talking about. They may come to interpretations you can flippantly disagree with, but they had to convince two or more reviewers that they knew something. Something NEW, even. It is easy for you to kibbitz, but not taking any responsibility. Attacking is cheap. Publishing is not.

I don’t think it is right, either. But I only know bits and pieces.

Reply to  SteveG1309
December 22, 2020 9:12 am

No offense intended, but the idea that getting a paper published in a peer reviewed journal proves anything about the quality of the paper or author is completely refuted by climate science.

Beyond that, Carol never said anything about the paper being in a peer reviewed publication. That’s your addition to this story.

Reply to  Carol
December 23, 2020 3:46 am


I have also been to the museum in Austria and none of the documentation suggests your scenario. Please link to the academic paper. Thanks.


December 21, 2020 1:02 pm

So, Ootzi the Iceman went for a walk because his village down below may have been hit by a blizzard – anything’s possible, right? – and got whacked but wasn’t robbed. He had in his possession an axe with a copper axe head. Copper during the Bronze Age came from Cyprus. That would have been worth stealing, so why wasn’t it stolen from him? He also carried a bow and a “quiver” of arrows, along with medically usable herbs. Those weren’t stolen, either. Sounds like he went to meet his gods and beg for help.

Some disaster at the western end of the Mediterranean sent the Sea Peoples (Phoenicians) flying eastward toward Turkey and Cyprus. It wasn’t remotely an easy life back then. If they based their ships and homes outside the Straits of Gibraltar in the Canary Islands, La Palma and Hierro are two of the most volcanically active islands in that chain. There are also volcanoes in Spain.

Not saying this is the only reason for a disastrous weather event but there were many, many other disasters and disruptions like this during the Bronze Age, including massive earthquakes, and Ootzi’s village may have been hit by some of them.

Reply to  Sara
December 21, 2020 2:41 pm

I think the Phillistines were late bronze age collapse Mycenaean intruders into the near east, not the Phoenicians, who probably originated there. Ootzi had a copper axe, not a bronze axe, so was probably not yet in the bronze age technologically speaking.

I would tend to disagree that the said collapse was driven by weather or natural disasters. The bronze age required lengthy trade routes for the tin. Coinage had not yet been invented. If you had tin, you could hire mercenaries and make the rules. Then someone discovered iron smelting.

Reply to  peterg
December 21, 2020 6:03 pm

There is archaeological evidence that the Phoenicians fled some disaster at the western end of the Med toward the eastern end. Not saying it happened all at once, but it did happen. There were, among other things, some severe quakes in the Middle East that made one side of a quake fault rise while the other slipped downward.

There are villages that were flattened by whatever happened, The walls of Jericho, for example, didn’t get flattened because Joshua blew his ram’s horn. There was a massive quake which left telltale signs that are the remnants of that.

Whatever it was, it was some natural disaster that affected almost the entire Mediterranean area. There is a rift zone that starts north of the Bosporus, goes all the way down the western side of the Middle East (Turkey -> Palestine/Syria, etc.-> Ethiopia and the Danakil Depression, and south from there along the eastern side of Africa. Kilimanjaro sits on that rift zone. I think it ends down at Tanzania. The point is that major disasters like the Sumatra quake and the Japan quake aren’t really predictable by anyone, but the results show up later, the disaster is “done”.

Not arguing with you, but there is the possibility that Ootzi’s village got hit by bad weather because of what happened back then.

Reply to  Sara
December 21, 2020 3:56 pm

He was attacked. Why, we will never know. He fled from his attackers and found a place to hide. His body was not found until thousands of years later. He had an arrowhead in his back that quite punctured a major vein. That injury was serious enough that he couldn’t have lived for more than a few hours after he received it.

Reply to  MarkW
December 21, 2020 5:43 pm

If he was on what could be termed a spirit walk, to ask his gods to help his village, the best way to get there is to meet with death. Whether it was that, or someone just killed him, it still doesn’t explain why he was not robbed, which was my point.

Reply to  Sara
December 22, 2020 9:15 am

To rob him, they had to first find him. He was shot with an arrow, that implies his attackers weren’t close.

Reply to  Sara
December 22, 2020 7:07 am

The Sea Peoples date to a good 2,000 years after Otzi.

Ed Zuiderwijk
December 21, 2020 2:48 pm

If I remember it correctly, last winter the Austrian government declared a state of emergency because of the massive quantities of snow falling in the mountains. I don’t see those glaciers disappearing any time soon.

December 21, 2020 4:53 pm

You don’t have to go back 5000 years to find evidence of previous deglaciation periods. The Grand Tetons in Wyoming, with a few glaciers still remaining, were known to be ice free in about the year 1300 at the end of the Medieval Warm Period. Their glaciers regrew from zero during the Little Ice Age, the coldest period in the Holocene, from ~1350 to ~1850. The recovery from the Little Ice Age started BEFORE CO2 started to rise.


December 22, 2020 12:34 am

Err, that picture is of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomites (also Eastern Alps), but not the Ötztal. The Ötztal Alps look much more like the western and central alps, pyramidal peaks with (shrinking) glaciers. Otherwise, another interesting item that confirms that melting glaciers in the European Alps is a natural phenomenon.

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