The Glaciation of Australia

Eric A. Colhoun, Timothy T. Barrows*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Australia was glaciated several times during the Pleistocene and possibly during the Pliocene. On the Australian mainland, glaciers were restricted to only the highest elevations of the Kosciuszko massif. However, in Tasmania, a succession of glacial systems are recorded. The Early Pleistocene ice extent is the greatest with about 7000km2 of ice as a series of ice caps and valley glaciers. During subsequent glaciations, the extent of ice decreased to 4000-5000km2 during the Middle Pleistocene and ice extent during the Late Pleistocene was confined to only 1085km2, mostly as an ice cap on the Central Plateau. The timing of ice extent has historically been very difficult to determine, chiefly reliant on relative dating methods. However, exposure dating using cosmogenic nuclides is providing absolute ages for glacier advances. The oldest directly dated advance occurred at 190ka in the West Coast Range. The next recorded advances occurred at 59ka in the Snowy Mountains and 41-44ka in central Tasmania. Maximum ice extent culminated at approximately the same across all of Australia at 17-20ka. Ice retreated rapidly after this, with one final advance between 16 and 18ka in the Snowy Mountains, but small glaciers may have survived until 14 ka in Tasmania.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1037-1045
    Number of pages9
    JournalDevelopments in Quaternary Science
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2011


    • Australia
    • Exposure dating
    • Glaciation
    • Snowy Mountains
    • Tasmania


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