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"The farther backward you can look,
the farther forward you are likely to see."
   - Winston Churchill

The last decade of the 20th Century was the warmest of the entire global instrumental temperature record, starting in the mid-19th century. All 10 years rank among the 15 warmest and include the 6 warmest years on record, which makes these high temperatures unusual for the past century. But what about in the context of past centuries or millennia? How unusual are modern temperatures compared to those of the past? It is only through the reconstruction of past climate that we can truly evaluate the magnitude of this warming.

The Story
Background on climate issues and the scientific study of climate variability

The Data
A comprehensive look at the instrumental and paleoclimatic data that tells us how the Earth's temperature has changed over the past years to millennia.

About NOAA's Paleoclimatology Program:
NOAA's Paleoclimatology provides the paleoclimate data and information needed to understand and model interannual to centennial scale environmental change. This site was created to introduce the topic of global warming, and to show how paleoclimate data provide a long baseline of past change. This long baseline reveals the natural variability of Earth climate, and shows how climate and greenhouse gases have changed in the past. Links to scientific research results and data sets are provided throughout the perspective.

Original online publication 19 May 2000. Updated 10 November 2006.
"A Paleo Perspective on Global Warming"
Created by staff of the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program.
Click here for acknowledgments and here for site map

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