How Do Scientists Study Past Climates? How do we study collage...
There are several ways that scientists study how the Earth's climate is changing: satellites, instrumental records, historical records and proxy data.

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instrumental weather measurements, extending back into the 19th century, provides data from thermometers, rain gauges, historical documents and other instruments.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?


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16 July 2002