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TESS Seminar- Re-thinking an arid Last Glacial Maximum: new evidence from Australia’s arid interior

When Aug 30, 2017
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where D3.054 Cairns, 145.030 Townsville
Contact Name
Contact Phone 07 4232 1427
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Dr Timothy CohenTimothy Cohen
University of Wollongong


For nearly three decades Australia’s Quaternary science and archaeological community have perceived the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the arid interior as a period of pronounced aridity, increased windiness and reduced mean annual temperatures. This has stemmed from a combination of early luminescence work on aeolian dunes in the Strzelecki desert and from palaeothermometry research on eggshell, all of which have greatly influenced interpretations about the habitability of the Australian deserts during the LGM. In today’s interglacial the continental interior is already classed as arid, with a pronounced moisture deficit and large inter-annual variability with regards to precipitation. So what did an arid LGM look like in the deserts of Australia? Here I present a range of examples which show some intriguing differences to the widely accepted view of pronounced aridity in the LGM. I present new luminescence chronologies on palaeolake shorelines, source-bordering lunettes, lacustrine and fluvial sedimentary sequences that all suggest at least periods of elevated positive moisture balance during the LGM. Indeed, this work shows that unlike today there were large waterbodies (mega-lakes) fringing the Flinders Ranges during the broader interval of 30 – 18 ka. Such waterbodies are much larger than the modern hydrological regime can produce. I discuss the implications of these findings on landscapes and people with special reference to the Lake Eyre Basin.    


Tim Cohen is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong. He is a Chief Investigator in the newly operational ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). He is a geomorphologist and Quaternary scientist who researches landscapes and their evolution and past climates. In many ways he is a natural historian, an earth scientist and somebody who reads the landscape. His current work includes palaeoclimatic research in central Australia on what once was Australia’s mega-lakes. While, closer to the sea his research investigates the likely impacts of the predicted rises in sea level on rivers systems of south-eastern Australia. Whilst many in his field either stick to the past or the present Tim’s research attempts to straddle the two and integrate the results into the management of the Australian landscape. He has had extensive experience in both the research and applied aspects of his work working for state governments, resource management agencies and as an independent consultant. 

Centre for Tropical Environmental & Sustainability Sciences

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