by John J. Clague
Importance of Quaternary research to society
The Quaternary Period, although only an instant in the 4.5 billion year expanse of geologic time, is disproportionately important because it is the interval during which humans evolved and because it includes the present. Events of the Quaternary are preserved in sediments, ice sheets, and landforms with a greater degree of completeness and temporal resolution than those of any earlier period of comparable length. Studies of these historical and environmental archives continue to provide the essential context that allows scientists to evaluate what is happening with Earth's climate today and to clarify our vulnerability to hazardous natural processes, for example earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, floods, and landslides.