Field Trips
Contact us

The INTIMATE Project 


INTIMATE (INTegration of Ice-core, MArine and TEerrestrial records) is a core programme of the INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Research) Palaeoclimate Commission (PALCOMM). The purpose of INTIMATE is to gain a better understanding of 'geologically recent' climate changes, particularly during the Last Ice Age (Glaciation) and the world-wide transition from ice age climates to the present 'interglacial' climate (for scientific details see Hoek et al. 2008 (Link to journal)).

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. The activities of the NZ-INTIMATE research community are the primary focus of the information on these web pages.

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 (Alley et al. 1993Johnsen et al. 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? Clearly, an ability to understand the environmental consequences of these past climate changes provides an invaluable context to improving future predictions of the effects of anthropogenic 'abrupt' climate change.

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 North Atlantic INTIMATE project has focused on achieving this integration between Greenland ice cores and marine and terrestrial records for the surrounding region.

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.

December 2003 initial meeting

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. A summary report is available on the Meetings page.

August 2004 workshop

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 available on the Meetings page.

The focus of the meeting was to:

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 loessial deposits). The poster, accompanied by a brief explanatory report, was completed in March 2005.

2005 poster

Click on the image below to load a 1.7 megabyte version that can be viewed on-screen or saved to disk.

Click to download

The 2005 explanatory report accompanying the poster, and a higher-resolution version of the poster, can be accessed from the Publications page.

July 2005 workshop

The next NZ-INTIMATE workshop was held at Lower Hutt in July 2005. Details are available from the Meetings page. The participants agreed upon two main objectives:

Full citations and links to pdf files on the journal websites are provided on the Publications page.

December 2005 meeting

A brief discussion of progress on NZ-INTIMATE was convened at the Geological Society of New Zealand Annual Conference held in Kaikoura in 28 November to 1 December 2005. It was open to all participants at the conference. The meeting programme and minutes from the meeting are available on the Meetings page.

February 2006 meeting

An Australasian-INTIMATE meeting was convened in Auckland, immediately preceding an Australia-New Zealand Geomorphology Group conference in Northland. The meeting notice and programme is available on the Meetings page. No proceedings or reports were produced from this meeting.

November 2006 meeting

This meeting was convened as an Australasian-INTIMATE meeting, at Kaikoura in late November 2006. Participation was low (16 people) compared to previous meetings. The meeting circular and programme, and minutes, are available on the Meetings page, along with a preceding discussion document on climate event definition. 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.


The draft New Zealand climate event stratigraphy, formulated at the Kaikoura meeting, was presented at the XVII INQUA congress in Cairns, Australia, in July-August 2007. 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, destined to be published in 2008 in a special issue of the journal Quaternary International. This has not come to pass, reflecting a challenging deadline of January 2008 for submission of material. There was also agreement to submit a proposal to PALCOMM to continue the Australasian INTIMATE project into Phase II. A review of the INQUA CONGRESS by David Lowe (which was also published in Quaternary Australasia in 2007) is available on the Meetings page.

Following the congress, a proposal for Phase II of Australasian INTIMATE was submitted to PALCOMM. Approval and funding for Phase II was granted in June 2008.

June 2008 meeting

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 for the project. The meeting programme and abstracts, and a summary report on the meeting results, are available on the Meetings page.