How Do Scientists
Study Past Climates?
Some scientists look to satellites to study the Earth's changing climate. However, the satellite record is too short (ca. 20 years) to provide much perspective on changing climate.
The record of instrumental weather measurements, extending back into the 19th century, provides data from thermometers, rain gauges, historical documents and other instruments. However, this record is too short to study many climatic processes. Also, because we have few instrumented observations from before the major industrial releases of carbon dioxide began, it is difficult to separate human and natural influences on climate.
Paleoclimatologists find clues in natural
records - proxy data. Proxy data are natural
clues to past climate that are buried in sediments at the bottom of the
oceans, locked in coral reefs, frozen in glaciers and ice caps, or preserved
in the rings of trees. Details on on one type of proxy data, corals, can
be found on our pages Coral
Paleoclimatology: What can corals tell us about climate?
16 July 2002