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New Paleoclimate Database Useful for Climate Science and Assessments

Annual tree rings from a cross section of wood. Image credit: Pixabay
Annual tree rings from a cross section of wood. Image credit: Pixabay

Scientists have been using climate evidence preserved in rocks, trees, sediments, and other natural materials for decades to understand past climates, but this approach gives only a relative picture of Earth conditions in the past. Methods to make these climate records more accurate have been developed, but a new study funded in part by the Climate Program Office’s Climate Observations and Monitoring (COM) Program, takes on this challenge with a fresh perspective. COM-funded researchers Julien Emile-Geay and Kevin Anchukaitis worked with a team to combine multiple data sources and models to produce a more reliable long term climate record. The COM Program funded this project as part of an initiative to produce high quality datasets for enhancing predictions and informing stakeholders. 

This method begins with constructing a “reference climate,” or a baseline state of climate through the past one thousand years, using a compilation of many climate models. Researchers are then able to draw out a series of environmental conditions, like air and ocean temperature and precipitation. This data provides a benchmark to compare with paleoclimate proxy records, and can transform them from relative data to actual climate component values. The research team used a combination of records worldwide, from tree rings, cave formations, glacier ice, lake and ocean sediments, corals, and more. The study, published in Scientific Data, produced a rich dataset that spans the years 850 to 2005 CE, which is immediately available for many climate science applications, and especially for climate assessments. The authors also created resources to help users load the dataset and generate results. This product contributes to a growing body of work supported by COM to provide useful data resources for climate predictions. 

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For more information, contact Clara Deck.

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