Abstract

This paper reviews 50 years of progress in understanding the recent history of the Earth as contained within the stratigraphical record of the Quaternary. It describes some of the major technological and methodological advances that have occurred in Quaternary geochronology; examines the impressive range of palaeoenvironmental evidence that has been assembled from terrestrial, marine and cryospheric archives; assesses the progress that has been made towards an understanding of Quaternary climatic variability; discusses the development of numerical modelling as a basis for explaining and predicting climatic and environmental change; and outlines the present status of the Quaternary in relation to the geological time scale. The review concludes with a consideration of the global Quaternary community and the challenge for the future.

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