AUS-INTIMATE 2003-2011

The INTIMATE project began in 1995 and has been carried out within particular geographic regions via meetings, conferences and resulting publications involving researchers in climate science. In 2003, an Australasian project (AUS-INTIMATE) commenced, with formal recognition from INQUA (Project Number 0806), and comprising two centres of activity, one in Australia (OZ-INTIMATE) and one in New Zealand (NZ-INTIMATE). In 2008 INQUA recognition was extended for the next Inter-Congress interval to 2011.

Why is it important? Something of a wake-up call arose from the scientific analyses of core samples taken from the Greenland ice sheet, such as those published in 1993 and 2001. These analyses were remarkable because they showed that Greenland ice has annual winter/summer layering and the layers can be counted back in time over many thousands of years. Various components in the ice, such as isotopes, showed evidence of climate changes in the past that were far more abrupt and more complex than had previously been realized. Because the ability to determine the age of the ice cores (annual layers) was more precise than could be obtained from sediments beneath the oceans, or on land (e.g. by radiocarbon dating), a major problem became apparent. How did the abrupt climate changes, seen over periods of decades to centuries in the ice cores, affect the ocean and land environments elsewhere in the world, if at all?
The problem was to then develop age linkages between high-precision ice core records and lower-precision records from marine sediment cores (which provide evidence of changes in ocean temperatures and biota) and on-land (terrestrial) records (which via plant and animal fossils show changes in land ecosystems). This is the focus of the INTIMATE project, to achieve these linkages as can best be done. A preferred way forward was to construct what may be called a regional ‘climate event stratigraphy’. A climate event stratigraphy is a collective ‘best fit’ history of the climatic changes recorded in the geologic record (stratigraphy), as obtained from information sources such as ice cores, marine cores and terrestrial deposits.

The focus of the Australasian INTIMATE project is to attempt a similar integration for Antarctic ice cores and the marine and terrestrial records of for Australia and New Zealand. The aim is to develop a detailed chronologic picture of climatic changes and environmental consequences for the Australasian region over the past 30,000 years. This Southern Hemisphere perspective is a fundamental step in developing a detailed global understanding of the effects of past climate changes, and its implications for the future.

2003-2004 A meeting to announce the proposed extension of the INTIMATE project into Australasia (initiated at the INQUA congress in Reno, Nevada in 2003), was convened by Jamie Shulmeister at the Geological Society of New Zealand Annual Conference held in Dunedin, New Zealand, in November 2003.Members of the NZ paleoclimate community were invited to attend the inaugural NZ-INTIMATE workshop, Lower Hutt, August 2004. The meeting proceedings and abstracts, a summary of outcomes and a review report are NZ_INTIMATE 2004_report.The focus of the meeting was to:

  • Identify key New Zealand onshore and offshore records for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (LGIT).
  • Promote ways to improve procedures for establishing precise ages of, and effecting high resolution correlations between, onshore and offshore New Zealand records.

The initial objective agreed to at this workshop was the compilation of a poster summarizing New Zealand climate records spanning the last 30,000 years, emphasizing continuous records (e.g. cores) from a variety of latitudes and elevations, supplemented with fragmentary records (e.g. glacial, fluvial, and loess deposits).

The first OZ-INTIMATE meeting was held at Lucas Heights, Sydney, Australia in September 2004. Twenty-four Australian researchers attended. The objectives agreed upon were

  • Identify and prioritise Australian onshore and offshore reference records for the OIS 2/1 transition.
  • Promote ways to effect high-precision and dating of key Australian onshore and offshore records for the determination of a regional event stratigraphy.


It was also agreed that a poster should be produced with Australian records for the December 2004 AQUA meeting.



2005 The poster, accompanied by a brief explanatory report, was completed in March 2005. NZ_paleoclimate_poster_GNSreport_SR2005_07NZpaleoclimate_poster

The next NZ-INTIMATE workshop was held at Lower Hutt in July 2005 The participants agreed upon two main objectives:

  • Publication of an improved chronology for key NZ tephra marker beds less than 30,000 calendar years old (subsequently published by Lowe et al. 2008, Quaternary Science Reviews);
  • Publication of an article that describes key paleoclimatic records from New Zealand and defines a provisional climate event stratigraphy for the past 30,000 years (subsequently published by Alloway et al. 2007, Journal of Quaternary Science).

A brief discussion of progress on NZ-INTIMATE was convened at the Geological Society of New Zealand Annual Conference held in Kaikoura in November/December 2005. It was open to all participants at the conference.NZ_INTIMATE_2005Dec_report







2006 An Australasian-INTIMATE meeting was convened in Auckland, immediately preceding an Australia-New Zealand Geomorphology Group conference in Northland.Another meeting was convened as an Australasian-INTIMATE meeting, at Kaikoura in late November 2006. The focus of the meeting was the presentation of new data that allowed refinement of the timing of climate events, and the drafting out of a chart defining a draft climate event stratigraphy, for presentation at the XVII INQUA congress in 2007.NZ_INTIMATE_2006_report  
2007 INQUA CONGRESS, Cairns  The draft New Zealand climate event stratigraphy, formulated at the Kaikoura meeting, was presented at the XVII INQUA congress in Cairns. During the congress, a meeting of the Australasian-INTIMATE group was held, and an agreed goal was preparation of papers documenting and supporting the climate event stratigraphies (Alloway et al., 2007; Lowe et al., 2008). There was also agreement to submit a proposal to PALCOMM to continue the Australasian INTIMATE project into Phase II. This was approved and funding for Phase II was granted in June 2008.2007_INQUA_CONGRESS_report
2008 An Australasian-INTIMATE meeting was convened at Onekaka, northwest South Island, New Zealand, in early June 2008. Participation comprised 22 scientists. Presentations included summaries of progress-to-date, and discussions of forward plan. The new direction was based around the modern New Zealand climate regions (Kidson ref) and timeslices. The northwest North Island has a very different climate from the southeast South Island. So climate records for these two regions will never correlate. However, this spatial variability in climate and timing of events provides important information. Therefore, spatial climate variability is as important as temporal variability. NZ_INTIMATE_2008_report  
200 The PAST CLIMATE SYMPOSIUM was the brain child of George Denton and GNS Science in wellington. The meeting was to showcase the improvements in geochronology and understanding climate. The meeting was divided into one day Symposium of keynote addresses and public lectures by George Denton and Wally Broecker, and two days of workshops, including an Australasian-INTIMATE meeting. The symposium brought together researchers from all over the world (New Zealand, United States, Australia, Canada, France, UK and South America) that are working on Southern Hemisphere paleoclimate.
PAST CLIMATES ABSTRACTS_06_MAYThere were 4 main themes to the meeting.

  • Last glaciation and termination- abrupt climate change
  •  Interconnections, Southern Hemisphere comparisons
  •  Geochronology
  • Drivers and climates of the Southern Hemisphere


Several Australian researchers attended the Past-Climates symposium in Wellington. Two young researchers, Jessica Reeves and Tim Cohen, were charged with the task of re-invigorating the Oz-INTIMATE project. Later that year the second OZ-INTIMATE workshop was held at Lucas Heights, Sydney, Australia on the 16-17th December, 2009. This was attended by Peter Almond from New Zealand to help encourage the Australians and provide some wisdom from the NZ-INTIMATE project. Due to the large size and diverse environments and climates across Australia it was decided to split the continent into regions; Tropics, Temperate, Interior, Southern Ocean and Antarctica. The changing climate in each of these regions was essential before a meaningful synthesis of the whole of Australia could be compiled. The key records from each region would be compiled. Outputs would include a poster produced for the AQUA 2010 meeting and the regional data would be presented in the Southern Hemisphere INTIMATE session at INQUA 2011. This is the first meeting that involved climate modellers. OZ_INTIMATE 2009_report
2010   The third OZ-INTIMATE workshop was held at Stradbroke Island, Queensland, in July 2010, as part of the AQUA meeting. The poster from the 2009 meeting was presented and the wider community asked for feedback and contributions before the regional syntheses were presented at INQUA 2011.A fourth meeting was held in December 2010 at Lucas Heights to finalise the records and ideas before INQUA 2011.OZ_INTIMATE 2010_report
2011 An Aus-INTIMATE meeting held in Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand in March 2011. This meeting was to present some new records and prepare for the INQUA congress in Bern, as well as to discuss ideas for the future of Aus-INTIMATE after INQUA. Several Australians attended, funded by money from INQUA. The regional syntheses from Australia were presented along with the New Zealand 21 ka time slice synthesis comparing it to PMIP2 outputs (Lorrey et al., 2011). A fifth OZ-INTIMATE meeting was held in December 2011 at Lucas Heights to finalise the papers for the special issue of Quaternary Science Reviews. Several New Zealanders were invited due to their contributions to several of the papers within the special issue that were collaborative efforts between Australians and New Zealand researchers in the case of the Southern Ocean. With the end of PALCOMM support for the INTIMATE project after 8 years there was also significant discussions about ongoing and future projects that would continue the work.OZ-INTIMATE 2011_report
2011 INQUA Congress, Bern A Southern Hemisphere INTIMATE session with 23 abstracts, 10 from the AUS-INTIMATE group.This session builds on the increasing availability of high quality multi-proxy records in the Southern Hemisphere covering the last glacial cycle. The aim is to illuminate the hemisphere-wide changes in ocean-atmospheric circulation, from the tropics to Antarctica, that caused the responses captured in the records. Australasian-INTIMATE is a formal project which has taken the approach of integrating these records into climate event stratigraphies for the marine and terrestrial realms of Australia and New Zealand. This project is now investigating how climate events are related to local, hemispheric and global scale drivers and the variation of important climate phenonmenon such as ENSO, SAM, and IPO. We invite papers that explore the links (including teleconnections) between millennial scale multi-proxy records and palaeo-synoptic conditions from throughout the Southern Hemisphere over the last glacial cycle. We particularly encourage papers involving integration of palaeoclimate records with climate models.
2012-2013 Publication of the Special Issue of Quaternary Science Reviews guest edited by Jessica Reeves, Brent Alloway and Tim Barrows