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Updated 8/30/99

Welcome to the Beringian Paleoenvironmental Atlas


Statement of Purpose

This World Wide Web site provides historical and geologic information on past climates and environments in Beringia (northwestern North America and northeastern Asia).  We provide basic data (e.g. the original geologic data from individual sites), summaries, and syntheses of the basic data presented in map and/or time-series form.  The site is a living scientific document, and syntheses contained within it are synthesized from the data archived in the atlas database. It grows as new data and syntheses become available. The site is intended as a resource for both the global change scientific community and students who wish to learn more about the history of the arctic environment. An additional section for the general public is under construction. See the future directions section for more information about planned sections of the Atlas.

Why an Atlas?

An important part of global change studies is to understand how the Earth's climate has varied naturally in the past.  Knowledge of historically observed variations in climate provides us with information on current climate conditions and recent climate changes.  Studies of the geologic record extend our knowledge of the Earth's climate far beyond historical records by providing  evidence of climates drastically different from today.  By studying these ancient climates, and climate changes, we can understand the inner workings of the climate system.  By coupling the knowledge of the climate system with knowledge of historical climate conditions, we can predict future climate change. 

In order to understand fully the workings of the climate system, we must study climate change in all regions of the globe.  The Arctic and Subarctic are thought to have particularly sensitive climates.  These regions are expected to respond early and with great strength to global-scale changes in the Earth's climate system (e.g. the human-induced greenhouse effect).  The significance of this response increases when we consider the potential effects of rapid arctic and subarctic climate change on the climate of the entire planet.  Examples of such changes (called feedbacks) are altered ocean circulation due to melting of arctic sea ice, and the release of large amounts of greenhouse gasses by melting of arctic permafrost layers and warming of arctic tundra soils.

Future Directions

We are currently considering some major additions to the Atlas site. The foremost need is an outreach section directed toward the general public. We would also like to add an additional section on Beringian fauna and how it records environmental change. Presently, no timeline is available for these additions to the Atlas. Minor additions to the Atlas (e.g. new syntheses and data) can be tracked through the use of the What's New page.

Statement of Purpose

Why an Atlas?

Future Directions