With its central position in Europe, Switzerland is of primary interest when reconstructing past climate. Compared to the Alps, where the isotopic signal may be challenging to interpret due to site effects, the foreland (Jura Mountains and Swiss Plateau) is predominantly influenced by moisture from the north Atlantic sectors, especially in winter, which makes it a great site for this purpose. During the last decade, several samples were collected from approximately 20 caves in Switzerland (see figure), which are now stored in the stalagmite repository in the Department ofEnvironmental Sciences, University of Basel. The caves are distributed along an altitudinal transect ranging from 400 to 2000 m above sea level. Most of them were collected during the former STALCLIM SNF-Sinergia project.

Our most important Swiss study site, Milandre Cave, is set approximately one hour from Basel in the Swiss Jura Canton and acts as an undergroundlaboratory for paleoclimate research, where we have continuously conducted research for the past 15 years. Since 2010, we have been conductingscientific monitoring in Milandre Cave with respect to paleo-studies, which involves several field trips per year to collect scientific information from the loggers and collect water samples. We achieved prominent results with the publication of a benchmarking continental water isotope record for Western Central Europe, which allows the development of a continuous and highly-resolved record of fluctuations in mean annual air temperature over the last 14’000 years in Central Europe. Ongoing research is now focusing on deeper time intervals.

Key Publications

Ghadiri, E., S. Affolter, Brennwald, M. S., Fleitmann, D., Häuselmann, A. D., Cheng, H., Maden, C., Leuenberger, M., Kipfer, R. (2020). Estimation of temperature – altitude gradients during the Pleistocene–Holocene transition from Swiss stalagmites”. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 544, 116387,

Affolter S., Häuselmann, A., Fleitmann, D., Edwards, R. L., Cheng, H., Leuenberger, M. (2019) Central Europe temperature constrained by speleothem fluid inclusion water isotopes. Science Advances, 5, eaav3809, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3809

Affolter, S., Häuselmann, A. D., Fleitmann, D., Häuselmann, P., Leuenberger, M. (2015). Triple isotope (δD, δ17O, δ18O) study on precipitation, drip water and speleothem fluid inclusions for a central European cave (NW Switzerland). Quaternary Science Reviews, 127, 73-89,

Häuselmann, A.D., Fleitmann, D., Cheng, H., Tabersky, D., Günther, D.R., Edwards, L. (2015). Timing and nature of the penultimate deglaciation in a high alpine stalagmite from Switzerland. Quaternary Science Reviews, 126, 264-275,

Facts & Figures


2022-2026 SNSF Standard Grant
2011-2015 SNSF Sinergia « STALCLIM »

Responsible Scientists

Prof. Dominik Fleitmann
Dr. Stéphane Affolter
Elisa Hofmeister
Timon Kipfer