Since the Last Glacial Maximum, ~20 k.y. ago, Alpine glaciers have retreated and thinned. This transition exposed bare bedrock surfaces that could then be eroded by a combination of debuttressing or local frost cracking and weathering. Quantification of the respective contributions of these processes is necessary to understand the links between long-term climate and erosion in mountains. Here, we quantified the erosion histories of postglacial exposed bedrock in glacial valleys. Combining optically stimulated luminescence and terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) surface exposure dating, we estimated the erosion rate of bedrock surfaces at time scales from 101 to 104 yr. Bedrock surfaces sampled from the flanks of the Mer de Glace (Mont Blanc massif, European Alps) revealed erosion rates that vary from 3.5 ± 1.2 × 10–3 mm/yr to 4.3 ± 0.6 mm/yr over ~500 m of elevation, with a negative correlation between erosion rate and elevation. The observed spatial variation in erosion rates, and their high values, reflect morphometric (elevation and surface slope) and climatic (temperature and snow cover) controls. Furthermore, the derived erosion rates can be used to correct the timing of deglaciation based on TCN data, potentially suggesting very rapid ice thinning during the Gschnitz stadial.

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