Leicester Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Research Group
Why study the Quaternary?
Given concerns over human-induced changes to the world’s climate over the next century there is an increasing impetus to understand the causes of major climatic fluctuations throughout geological history. The last two million years (The Quaternary) have been characterised by great fluctuations in the earth’s climate, producing the extreme cold of ice ages, as well as periods of warmth known as “interglacials"; some of which may have been warmer than the present (Holocene) interglacial. Geological evidence reveals rapid shifts in the global climate throughout the Quaternary, which are thought to reflect complex interactions and feedbacks between the atmosphere, oceans and terrestrial land surfaces.
Why the low latitudes?
The world’s climate is driven by the atmospheric and oceanic redistribution of heat from low to high latitudes. Thus, understanding the past climatic dynamism of the low-latitudes, principally the inter-tropical convergence zone, the trade wind systems and the sub-tropical high pressure cells is critical if we are to understand the fundamental causes of global climatic changes. Quaternary environmental research at Leicester is focussed on these relatively understudied and challenging environments. Data obtained from these regions reveal significant landscape and ecological dynamism over timescales ranging from decades to hundreds of thousands of years.