Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Mapping Earth's Climate History

The Hadley Centre Central England Temperature data-set is the world’s longest running climate record. Since 1659 it has recorded the mean, minimum and maximum temperature every month since the middle of the 17th Century in central England. However, although the Hadley Centre data-set contains temperature records for over 350 years, it is still only a tiny snapshot into the world's climate during a minuscule period of the Earth's history. 

If we want to learn more about how the climate of the Earth has changed over the long term we need to look at other data. Luckily the ebb and flow of the climate can be detected from lots of different geological and natural processes. Climate scientists are able to observe long-term changes in the Earth's climate using 'proxy data', from the effect that the climate has on the biosphere.By looking at how different climatic conditions leave traces on the environment we can learn more about how the climate has changed over huge periods of time. For example, the effect of changes in the climate can be observed in the layers of ice sheets, in sediments at the bottom of lakes, in tree rings, and in the development of stalagmites.

Using these natural and geological 'proxy data' sources climate scientists can begin to understand the long-term changes in the Earth's climate and begin to put the current accelerated climate heating in a longer-term context. 

In Mapped: How ‘proxy’ data reveals the climate of the Earth’s distant past Carbon Brief has put together an interactive map which plots thousands of different 'proxy data-sets' around the world that scientists use to study the history of Earth's climate. NOAA has as archive of over 10,000 different 'proxy data-sets' used for exploring historical climate records. It is these data-sets that Carbon Brief has mapped. 

If you select any one of the thousands of 'proxy data-sets' shown on the map you can learn more about the period of Earth's history that it covers, the site name and a link to NOAA's reference webpage for the data-set.

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