Encouraging Research of Quaternary Science

INQUA, the International Union for Quaternary Research, was founded in 1928 by a group of scientists seeking to improve understanding of environmental change during the glacial ages through interdisciplinary research.

Today, more than 45-member countries, spread throughout the world, contribute to INQUA’s vitality.  INQUA’s basic goal – “promoting improved communication and international collaboration in basic and applied aspects of Quaternary research” – is achieved mainly through the activities of its commissions and committees.


INQUA Mission and Activities

INQUA’s basic goal is to promote improved communication and international collaboration in experimental and applied aspects of Quaternary research, in order to contribute in practical ways to an evaluation of the scale and rates of global environmental changes during the recent geological past. INQUA considers that a deep knowledge of global developments during the past 2.58 million years (the Quaternary geological period) provides the essential template for assessing the significance of current and predicted global environmental shifts. The Quaternary period witnessed the evolution of modern humans against a back-drop of recurrent advance and retreat of glaciers and continental ice sheets, major oscillations in global sea level, abrupt reorganizations of global meteorological and oceanographic circulation patterns, and a range of other physical and biological adjustments to climate change.

The spectrum of environmental changes reflected in Quaternary geological records is likely to encompass the conditions the world may experience in the foreseeable future. Quaternary records therefore offer important base-line data for evaluating a number of the issues at the forefront of today’s environmental concerns, such as quantifying future ice sheet decline and sea-level rise, ocean warming and acidification, increasing climatic instability, extinction of plants and animals, groundwater recharge rates, volcanic and tectonic unrest, rates of adaptation (e.g. evolutionary) to abrupt environmental change, and so on. Each of these needs to be evaluated in the longer term, not just in the instrumental period, to be properly understood.

INQUA promotes greater understanding of the importance of Quaternary environmental and archaeological records in two ways, by engaging with international dialogue and activities concerned with modern global environmental problems, and by funding activities that clarify the background context to these problems, within the Quaternary timescale.