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Late Quaternary Climates of Australia and New Guinea

  • J.M. Bowler (a1), G.S. Hope (a1), J.N. Jennings (a1), G. Singh (a1) and D. Walker (a1)...

Between 60,000 and 40,000 B.P., northeastern Queensland, south New South Wales, and southeastern South Australia were drier than at present. From 40,000–30,000 B.P. a colder climate than at present is indicated from one New Guinea area. Dryness became even more accentuated in northeastern Queensland, whereas many lakes filled up in the southern mainland, probably because of increasing precipitation effectiveness there. Before the end of this period colder conditions than now were already giving rise to slope instability in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.

The period of 25,000–15,000 B.P. saw the greatest lowering of the New Guinea treeline, reaching an extreme at 17,000 B.P. when glaciers also achieved their maximum extent. This was the time of extensive glaciation in Tasmania and small glaciers formed in the Snowy Mountains. Estimates of the lowering of mean annual temperature range from 6°–10°C. Northeastern Queensland experienced its driest Late Quaternary climate; lakes were contracting throughout the southern mainland and the final phase of substantial desert dune building took place before the period ended.

In the Snowy Mountains ice retreat began before 20,000 B.P., as did the construction of clay dunes in the southern semi-arid belt, a process demanding higher temperatures. However, in New Guinea and Tasmania ice retreat and treeline rise did not begin till after 15,000 B.P. Temperatures rose rapidly and everywhere most of the ice had gone by 10,000 B.P., when some lakes filled up in southern Australia, implying an increase in absolute precipitation.

In the last 10,000 years climate has been relatively stable although there are some indications that temperature and rainfall were marginally higher than now between 8000 and 5000 B.P. Since then, lake levels have oscillated; a brief, limited resumption of periglacial activity took place in the Snowy Mountains and there were small glacier advances in New Guinea.

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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
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