Palaeolimate Research

"Human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future."

- Roger Revelle

Stated another way, you can only burn a planet’s carbon once. But the implications of our ongoing climate experiment are unclear. How fast will ice melt and sea level rise? How much will temperature increase? What are the chances of crossing tipping points? These questions are both scientifically fascinating and societally relevant. For instance, economists estimate that climate change could cost from under 1% to more than 10% of global GDP per year, though others suggest that uncertainty runs so deep as to make these sort of numbers practically meaningless. The Pentagon has characterized climate change as an accelerant of instability and conflict. And climate change is seen as a top global concern in polls. But while we have a general sketch of what our climatic future may hold, the details of the picture are still frustratingly blurry. Solid science can help pin down the answers to these questions.

My research focuses on deciphering the patterns and causes of climate change over recent millennia to the Ice Ages of the past few million years. Such information is critical to determining the sensitivity of the climate system to forcings, testing the ability of models to simulate big climate changes, and understanding how the climate system operates outside of 20th century boundary conditions. I both develop new geochemical proxy records from various archives (speleothems, marine sediments, glacial deposits) as well as mine existing data to study the large-scale evolution of global climate in the past, but with a mind to the future.

Students interested in this research please contact me. I have ongoing projects in all of these areas involving anything from field work in the mountains to lab work to data analysis behind the computer.