Quaternary Environment of the Eurasian North

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Quaternary Environment of the Eurasian North, abbreviated QUEEN was an international and interdisciplinary research programme in the Arctic.

QUEEN was established to understand the processes involved in environmental changes in the Arctic region by studying past environmental changes during the Late Cenozoic era. A primary objective of QUEEN was to make the environmental record and the history of glaciation during the last 250,000 years as complete for Eurasia as elsewhere. Regions of particular importance for understanding the Arctic's role in global climate change are the Eurasian shelves and the land masses south of these, including Siberian permafrost. The ice sheets in these regions are key elements in paleoclimatic models and play a vital role in the reconstruction of a continuous paleoenvironmental record. Special effort was devoted to the correlation of records from different sources across the Arctic. The programme was running between 1996 and 2003 under the umbrella of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and was coordinated by Prof. Dr. Jörn Thiede.


Global climate models have shown that the Arctic Ocean and surrounding continental areas are highly sensitive to the Greenhouse Effect. The temperature increase predicted by such climate models would lead to a reduction in Arctic sea ice cover and the release of further Greenhouse gases from Arctic soils. This in turn would have a major impact on the European climate.

Associated changes in surface albedo and ocean-atmosphere heat and gas exchange accelerate global warming, having a positive feedback effect. Increased temperatures of Arctic surface waters affects the deep water renewal in the Nordic Seas and the effectiveness of the global conveyor belt, which regulates the European climate through the Nordic heat pump. Partial melting of the Greenland ice sheet from warming in the Arctic induces a global sea level rise, increasing the danger of flooding in low lying regions close to coasts all over the world.

The models predicting future climate change are tested and validated mainly against historical climate data when the actual changes that subsequently occurred are known. To do this accurately obviously requires detailed knowledge of what these past changes were. Although the Arctic is known to have a key role in climate change, comparatively little is known about extent and rates of Late Quaternary changes of climatically and oceanographically important parameters in the Arctic.

Prior to QUEEN many projects were conducted in isolation, with little exchange of information between the institutions involved. Political changes in the late 198th/early 199th made it possible to exchange information freely between Russian scientists and their colleagues from Western countries. All scientists had access to the Russian Arctic, which comprises about half of the circum-Arctic land mass. As a result, many projects looking at climatic and environmental changes during the recent geological past were focusing on the Arctic as a whole. Among those, QUEEN was one of the first.


Sites on land and in the Arctic Ocean were sampled during the QUEEN project
  • Investigation of environmental changes in the Eurasian Arctic over the past 250,000 years, i.e., the last two climatic cycles.
  • Establish a record of palaeoenvironmental changes during this period on land,

on continental shelves, and in the deep sea of the Arctic Ocean along the Eurasian continental margin.

  • Correlate terrestrial, shelf and deep ocean records by using a variety of stratigraphic

tools and dating methods.

  • Reconstruct ice-sheet growth and decay over this period from geological and

palaeontological evidence.

  • Predict how sensitively ice sheets respond to climate change

through the glacial-interglacial cycles by numerical modeling.

  • Study relative changes in sea level to build a map of corresponding

vertical movements of the underlying earth surface.

  • Investigate how the depth of permafrost has responded to climatic and environmental


  • Use high resolution radiocarbon-dating for the environmental record of

the last glacial maximum and deglaciation (<30,000 yr BP).

Institutes involved[edit]

  • Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Bremerhaven
  • Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), St. Petersburg
  • Department of Quaternary Geology, University of Lund
  • Geological Museum, University of Copenhagen
  • Geological Survey of Finland
  • Geologisk Institutt, Universitet i Bergen
  • Research Center for Marine Geosciences (GEOMAR), Kiel (renamed to Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences) (IFM-GEOMAR)
  • Institute of Earth Studies, University of Wales


Thiede, Jörn & Bauch, Henning (1999) The Late Quaternary history of northern Eurasia and the adjacent Arctic Ocean: an introduction to QUEEN. Boreas, Vol. 28, pp. 3–5. Oslo. ISSN 0300-9483. doi:10.1111/j.1502-3885.1999.tb00202.x (pdf 132 kB)

Thiede, Jörn (1996) Quaternary Environment of the Eurasian North (QUEEN), European Science Foundation, Strasbourg. (pdf 150 kB)

Grobe, Hannes; Thiede, Jörn (1997) Information System for the ESF/QUEEN Programme (QUEEN/PANGAEA), Initial workshop/proposal, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven. (pdf 100 kB)

Grobe, Hannes (2001) Annual and final report of the EU project Information System for the ESF/QUEEN Programme (QUEEN/PANGAEA), MAS3-CT98-0185, Alfred Wegener Institute/European Network for Research in Global Change (ENRICH) within the R&D Programme 'Environment and Climate', 21 pp. (pdf 100 kB)

Scientific results were published in special QUEEN issues of the following journals: