Glaciers exert a major control on the shape of mountain topography. They tend to reduce relief above and scour troughs below the equilibrium line altitude (ELA). While many studies report this dichotomy, relief-limiting effects are controversial due to difficulties in quantifying key factors such as the initial topography, the timing of glacial occupancy, or rock uplift counteracting glacial erosion. Consequently, effectivity and degree of glacial erosion remain ambiguous. In geologically and climatically well-investigated parts of the European Central Alps, our calculation of glacial occupation time (GOT) from Quaternary ELA variations allows the quantification of gradual topographic modifications generated by the cumulative impact of cirque erosion over the Quaternary. We show that under low uplift, relief is effectively limited by glacial and periglacial headwall retreat, leading to a decline in topographic relief as GOT increases. Conversely, higher uplift rates seem to induce more persistent valley glaciation, triggering a positive feedback loop in which steep slopes are protected against erosion and relief increases.

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