Climate Change Through Time
Central to understanding, predicting and mitigating the impact of climate change is understanding how the Earth’s climate changed in the past. Using a range of proxy methods, our researchers are uncovering data stored in ice cores, rocks, tree rings, and microfossils to reconstruct past climates. By integrating these data with observations of the Earth’s modern climate, we can use computer models to infer the causes and consequences of past climate change and to make projections about future climate.
Integrating Proxies and Earth System Models to Elucidate Water Cycle Dynamics: A series of abrupt, massive global climate change events during the early Paleogene(here taken as 56 to30 Ma) provide a set of repeated natural experiments that enable us to study Earth System feedbacks. Drawing upon lessons learned from Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) research, this study will investigate early Paleogene intervals for which the climate signal is above the 'noise' and boundary conditions. Read more…>>
A New Regional Paleo-precipitation Proxy: Oxygen Isotopes in Desert Nitrate: An important unanswered question facing climatologists, policy makers, and humanity at large is how will global warming impact regional rainfall patterns? Our best tools for assessing how precipitation patterns in arid regions are likely to change in a warmer world are proxy validated global and regional climate models. This project will demonstrate how 17O isotopic anomalies in soil nitrate can be used as a sensitive new proxy of mean annual precipitation in 36Cl dated Atacama Desert soils that are ~ 1,000,000 years old. Read more…>>
Understanding the Role of a High-Latitude Convective Cloud Feedback in Equable and Future Climate Dynamics: "Equable climates" are periods in Earth’s history during which the equator-to-pole temperature difference and high-latitude seasonality were both much smaller than they are today. This is difficult to explain within the framework of our current understanding of climate dynamics which poses interesting scientific questions. Improving our understanding of equable climate dynamics may also prove helpful in making reliable predictions about future climate change. Read more…>>
Dynamics of Carbon Release and Sequestration: Case Studies of Two Early Eocene Hyperthermals: Records from continental and shallow marine sediments at sites in Wyoming, Utah, New Jersey, New Zealand, and the Arctic Ocean have been analyzed and show significant climate-induced shifts in rates and mechanisms of organic carbon burial that may have acted to stabilize and ultimately led to recovery of the climate system after ~3,000 billion tons of carbon were rapidly released to the atmosphere. Read more…>>
Glacial and Climate History of Central Asia and Tibet: Testing and calibrating global climate models requires high-resolution present-day climate data and well-constrained data on past climates of key regions around the world. This project is part of a long-term international effort (including Kyrgyz, American, Swedish, Russian and Chinese scientists) to reconstruct patterns and timing of past glaciation along major transects across Central Asia and Tibet. Read more…>>
Region in Focus: the Tianshan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan
Central Asia is one of the most extreme continental locations on Earth, and is particularly important because its glaciers and rivers respond to temporal variations in the dominance of several major climate systems. Read more…>>
The Purdue Stable Isotope Laboratory
The PSI facility is a state-of-the-art multi-user, stable isotope lab enabling research in a range of environmental and climate-related areas, including paleoclimatology, hydrology, ecology, and biogeocemistry. Visit the PSI website to learn more…>>
News and Reports
- The journal Nature highlights the paper, "El Niño in the Eocene greenhouse recorded by fossil bivalves and wood from Antarctica." Read more…>>
- Recent results from a study investigating Earth's recovery from prehistoric global warming find the Earth may be able to recover from rising carbon dioxide emissions faster than previously thought. Read more…>>
- A new paper by Gabe Bowen and James Zachos, "Rapid Carbon Sequestration at the Termination of the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum", has just been published in Nature.