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Major themes | Theme 2 | QUEST Deglaciation

QUEST Deglaciation: Climate and biogeochemical cycles during the last deglaciation

QUEST Deglaciation was headed by Prof Paul Valdes at the University of Bristol, with contributions from 13 co-investigators at the Universities of Southampton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Swansea and Oxford, Imperial College London, University College London, UEA and the British Antarctic Survey.

In the past 20,000 years, the Earth's climate has changed from a full ice age to a warm period, with episodes of climate instability of varying duration and intensity. The causes and mechanisms of these climate changes, and of pre-industrial changes in greenhouse gases and dust, are not fully understood. There are physical (orbital) controls, but evidence indicates that biogeochemical cycles are also important. This project aimed to ‘predict the past’ using climate models with dynamic global vegetation models to simulate land-atmosphere exchanges that control atmospheric composition (affecting CO2, methane, volatile hydrocarbons, and also dust and soot).

QUEST Deglaciation produced new global land and ocean palaeodata syntheses for fire, wetlands, and vegetation in the northern extratropics. Developments to FAMOUS, the project’s principal modelling tool, enabled the modelling of vegetation, fire and wetland sources of trace gases and aerosol, as well as emissions of dust and sea salt, and some investigation of climate-biogeochemical feedbacks.