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Tipping Points

Uncovering the Climate of the Past

Photo credits: E. Maddison, H. Ranner and D. Ranner

Why study the climate of the past?

In order to better understand present and future climate change, an understanding of past climate is needed. By studying the climate from the past we can gain insights into the workings of the Earth’s climate system. This improves our understanding of how climate and the environment interact. In order to reconstruct past climates, researchers examine climate 'proxies' which can be analysed to infer past climatic conditions.

What is a climate proxy?

Climate proxies are sources of climate information from natural archives that include oxygen isotopes, pollen grains, tree rings and insects. These enable scientists to determine past climatic patterns from before direct measurements were made.