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The Future of Past Climate

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Session Description: 

Recent attention to paleoclimate research has made apparent to the wider global change community the relevance of paleo perspectives on climate change. Of particular importance, paleoclimate has documented amplitudes and rates of climate change that are not knowable from historical records and has identified drivers of climate change on a range of timescales. Of equal importance, paleoclimate provides targets and points of validation for current-generation climate models used to predict near-term climate change. Recent advances in proxy methods, numerical approaches, and modeling capabilities have opened new avenues of investigation into past climate change. However, key gaps in knowledge and capabilities persist. Among them are uncertainties in proxies and their calibrations; uncertainties in the absolute timing and spatial coherence of past climate events; gaps in data availability for broad intervals of the Phanerozoic; and limitations in modeling capabilities and knowledge of past boundary conditions.

There is motivation by the research community and funders to chart new directions for future research into Earth’s past climate in order to understand how climate operates in climate states different than the present, and especially in warm states that might be analogues to a future state. Discussion topics will include how climate sensitivity and variability, extreme events, and the hydrological cycle and other aspects of the climate system, operated during past climate states, and what forcings and feedbacks caused the transition between states. Potential elements of this vision could include proxy and model development, new methods of treating existing data sets including through assimilation, and a focus on critical regions or transitions in Earth history.

This AGCI workshop will bring together experts in paleoclimate data generation, modeling, and data-model synthesis to present ideas from recent efforts and to develop ideas/recommendations for the way forward.