The North Atlantic Seaboard Programme (NASP: 1991-1995)

INTIMATE evolved from the North Atlantic Seaboard Programme (NASP) which began in 1991. The aim of NASP was to reconstruct the sequence of environmental changes around the North Atlantic over the period 14-9 k 14C yr BP. The focus was on terrestrial proxy records (pollen, plant macrofossils, coleoptera, stable isotopes, etc). At the inaugural International Workshop held in London in April 1991, twelve regional study groups were established, six from Europe (SW Europe, NW Europe, Switzerland, southern Sweden/Denmark, Norway, and Iceland) and six from the eastern seaboard of North America (Baffin/Labrador, Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New England). Their remit was to synthesise the available information from these regions and to compile the various records in 500 yr time-slices over the course of the transition from the last cold stage to the onset of the Holocene. John Lowe was appointed Overall Co-ordinator of the NASP programme, with Mike Walker co-ordinating the European Study Groups and Les Cwynar the North American Study Groups.

Fig 1. NASP 1991028Inaugural Workshop of NASP, London, 1991

The data-sets generated by the study groups were discussed and refined at subsequent workshops in Reykjavik, Iceland (1992), Karlshamn, Sweden (1993) and Amsterdam and De Lutte, The Netherlands (1994), and there was a NASP Symposium at the 8th International Palynological Congress at Aix-en-Provence, France, in September 1992 (Walker & Lowe, 1993). In 1992, NASP became a constituent Working Group (WG 4) of the International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP-253) project ‘Termination of The Pleistocene’ (1989-1994) co-ordinated by Jan Lundqvist and Matti Saarnisto.

Fig 2. SvanteJPG
Svante Bjorck pointing to the ‘Pre-boreal oscillation’ in a core taken during the Karlshamn Meeting, 1993

The results of the NASP programme were published in a Special Issue of Journal of Quaternary Science (1994), edited by John Lowe. This contained compilations from the twelve regions plus an overview in the form of a series of palaeogeographical maps showing the sequence of climatic changes around the North Atlantic during the Lateglacial and early Holocene (Lowe et al., 1994). Details of the NASP programme were also published in a Special Issue of Quaternary International, edited by Jan Lundqvist, Matti Saarnisto and Nat Rutter (Lowe & NASP Members, 1995)

During the course of NASP, a number of important developments occurred. A new radiocarbon calibration (CALIB 3.0) was published (Radiocarbon, 1993, 1); tephra horizons were increasingly being used as chronostratigraphic event markers; there were important new Greenland ice-core records from GRIP and GISP2; and quantified palaeo-oceanographic data were beginning to emerge from different sectors of the North Atlantic (Walker, 1995). In response to these various initiatives, ice-core geophysicist Jorgen-Peder Steffensen, and marine scientists Gerard Bond and Chris Charles, were invited to join the NASP programme at the 1994 Workshop in The Netherlands. This proved to be the first step in a new international, interdisciplinary collaboration which led to the the final NASP-sponsored Symposium at the XIVth INQUA Congress in Berlin: ‘Integration of terrestrial, offshore and ice-core data for high-resolution modelling of the North Atlantic during the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition’.