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Paleo Slide Set: Coral Paleoclimatology
Bird's eye view of Cariaco Basin, Venezuela (11N, 65W).
One of the most exciting new fields of science is global change. Global change refers to transformations in any aspect of the earth system and it is a discipline that brings together biologists, chemists, geologists, physicists, and social scientists. One of the most pressing issues in global change is the impact of human activities on the environment.

What do corals have to do with global change? A central principle of geology is called uniformitarianism; this doctrine states past geologic events can be explained by processes observable today, that, in effect, The present is the key to the past. Paleoclimatologists, however, believe that the converse of this statement is also true, that the past is the key to the present and even the future. Coral records give us important clues about how the tropical climate system operates, which, in turn, will make it possible for scientists to predict future global change. Long paleoclimatic records also supply information about the natural range of climatic variation and provide a baseline against which anthropogenic (man-made) climate change can be detected. Paleoclimatologists come here, to warm shallow waters perfect for coral growth, to unlock the earth's >climate history.

Photo Credits:
Julie Cole
INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder

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Last Modified: 12 October 2001

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