Out for an end-of-day snorkel (and water sample) on Christmas Island in the Tropical Pacific
From left: Kim Cobb, Hussein Sayani, Jess Conroy, Liz Wiggins, and Diane Thompson.
Palmyra Atoll in the Tropical Pacific, one of our feild sites in the Line Islands
Click here to read more about our research on Palmyra Atoll
Broomstick cave formations in Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo
Click here to read more about our research in caves
Preparing to take cores by SCUBA from live corals in the Pacific
Read more about what our cores tell us here
Drilling cores from fossil corals on Fanning Island in the Tropical Pacific
Click here to read more about our research on Fanning Island

Our Research

Our group’s mission is to uncover the mechanisms of global climate change, both natural and anthropogenic, in order to inform projections of future climate change. We focus primarily on the generation of new high-resolution records of past tropical Pacific climate variability from corals and cave stalagmites, with an emphasis on the last decades to centuries. Through the thoughtful combination of climate models and data, we seek to characterize natural climate variability in this region and identify climate trends that are associated with anthropogenic climate change.

Why Study Paleoclimate?


Find out here ->
Above: Two bore holes taken from a fossil coral during coring on Fanning Island in the central Pacific

Why Study Paleoclimate?

Instrumental climate data only extend back to the mid-19th century, at best, which means that the anthropogenic climate change signals we are chasing are in most cases longer than the available climate records. A wealth of climate history can be extracted from geologic archives such as corals, deep-sea sediments, cave stalagmites, lake deposits, tree rings, and ice cores. Recent advances in research techniques mean that paleoclimate data have approached the resolution and fidelity of instrumental climate data. This is especially true in many remote regions of the world, where long, high-quality instrumental climate records are often lacking. Using meticulously calibrated climate “proxies”, paleoclimatologists construct centuries- to millennia-long timeseries of climatic histories. They use such records to quantify the range of natural climate variability, investigate the mechanisms of past global climate change events, and gauge the accuracy of computer simulations of past climate changes made under a variety of different climate forcings. The ultimate goal of paleoclimate research is to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of global climate models – models that are charged with projecting the future impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Such projections (and their uncertainties) are arguably the most important input for cost-benefit analyses designed to critically assess the consequences of climate change adaptation and/or mitigation strategies.