Project Report

The Nordic World has strong ties and a long history of Arctic Quaternary and climate science. The Nordic Union for Quaternary Research (NORDQUA – est. 1974) and PalaeoArc (along with its predecessor networks; PONAM 1989-94; QUEEN; 1996-02; APEX 2004-12; Past Gateways 2012-18) are clear evidence of this legacy.  PalaeoArc is an international research network (2019-2025) with scientific aims that parallel the overall goal of IASC to enhance knowledge and understanding of the Arctic, and provide advisory data and results to the international society.

. PalaeoArc strives to understand climatically induced environmental changes in the Arctic from the Quaternary to present, following four themes focusing on the dynamics of 1) Arctic ice sheets, ice shelves and glaciers, 2) high latitude oceans and sea ice, 3) the terrestrial environment and landscape evolution, and the 4) climatic response to, and interaction between, these parts of the Arctic system. Annual international conferences are organized in different countries (2019 Poznán, Poland; 2021 Pisa, Italy; 2022 Rovaniemi, Finland; 2023 Akureyri, Iceland), gathering young and senior researchers working on diverse topics in Arctic science from marine, terrestrial and cryosphere perspectives. NORDQUA is the Nordic Union for Quaternary Research with the goal of encouraging interdisciplinary cooperation and networking among Quaternary scientists in the Nordic countries through joint field excursions and symposia. 

For the first time in history, the Nordic Quaternary Community gathered in North Iceland for The 4th International PalaeoArc Conference and the 2023 NORDQUA Excursion. The gathering attracted >60 researchers and academics (from students and earlier careers to senior scientists and Prof. emeriti) from all Nordic nations as well as the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland, Germany, Singapore, the US and Canada. The conference brought together scientists from different countries and career stages, and from different disciplines in Arctic science. This includes marine and terrestrial researchers, working either with field data or on numerical modelling approaches. The glue that merges all is the quest for knowledge of past environmental processes and change in the Arctic; given this is the key to understanding the present and future of the Arctic. 

Between two full days of stimulating scientific presentations (oral and poster) a Mid-Conference Field Excursion was taken to Iceland’s best kept Quaternary secret – The Tjörnes beds. In Iceland’s finest autumn weather, participants could marvel at the classic site which exhibits the North Atlantic´s fossiliferous transition from Pliocene warmth to Pleistocene glaciations, and the onset of the Quaternary geological period. The sequence records the migration of Pacific species into the Atlantic following the opening of the Bering Strait oceanic gateway. Furthermore, the sequence transitions into alternating beds of (glacial) diamictite with volcaniclastic sediments and basaltic lava flows. The Pleistocene sequence is believed to include 14 (glacial) tillites with the oldest roughly 2,5 Ma. The conference was closed with a panel discussion on knowledge gaps, urgent research topics, and the future of PalaeoArc. IASC Summary Report: PalaeoArc – NORDQUA 2023  

Following the PalaeoArc Conference, the 2023 NORDQUA Excursion showcased Northern Icelands glacial, sea level, climatic and volcanic history through regional day trips. Trip 1: The alpine glacial landscapes and slope instabilities of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula. Trip 2: Signatures of deglaciation dynamics, ice-lakes and their tephrochronological age control in Fnjóskadalur. And Trip 3: Geomorphological fingerprints of fast-flowing ice streams within the Iceland Ice Sheet in Bárðardalur. A total of 39 people participated in the excursion, making it the largest NORDQUA excursion at least since 1987 and possibly since the foundation of the union. 

The gathering was a success and provides a marker point in the history until the following NORDQUA Gathering at the Nordic Geological Winter Meeting (Gothenburg, Sweden Jan. 2024) and the planned 5th and 6th International PalaeoArc Meetings (Stockholm, Sweden May 2024 and Tromsö, Norway 2025). 

Subsidy for Early Career Researchers provided by IASC allowed for a more financially accessible gathering In Akureyri, North Iceland. 

Scientific highlights 

  • Over 60 interdisciplinary researchers gather to present and discuss past and present environmental changes in the Arctic based on terrestrial and marine records. 
  • Panel discussion of knowledge gaps and approaches to fill them in. 
  • Invitations to conference attendees to submit scientific contributions to the PalaeoArc special issue in the Boreas journal with a deadline of 1st September 2024. Publication anticipated 2025. 


Date and Location

27 August – 2 September 2023 I Akureyri, Iceland


IASC Working Groups funding the project


Project Lead


Year funded by IASC





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