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Engineering LibreTexts

11.1: Background

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  • Paleoclimatology is the science of ancient climates. Since systematic observation of weather goes back less than two centuries, constructing a climate history for a specific place or the planet as a whole depends on using three types of data.

    Instrumental – Direct observation of the weather using ground based and mobile weather stations, satellites, weather balloons, and other instrumentation. Systematic, global gathering of weather data in this way extends back less than two centuries.

    Historical – Inference of past climate from historical documents such as ship logs, church records, government documents, crop records, harbor records, and other documentary evidence. This kind of data allows us to expand our view of climate almost five millennia.

    Proxy – Physical evidence of past climate that includes tree rings, seafloor sediment, ice cores, cave formations, lake levels, pollen in lake sediments, corals, sedimentary rocks, and fossils. Proxy evidence enables us to see climates back hundreds of millions of years ago.

    In these activities you will be looking at instrumental and proxy data to create a climate history for a unique place in north central Oregon named the Clarno Basin. The area is unique because it contains three units of the John Day National Monument, an area that contains a rich collection of evidence for nearly 50 million years of regional climate change. Additional information on the monument can be found at <>

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