RESOURCES: Paleoclimate Central

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Science  27 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5517, pp. 607
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5517.607d

Scientists build a picture of ancient climate using all sorts of indirect clues, from tiny ocean fossils to the rings of old trees (see p. 658). The world's official storehouse for these “proxy data” is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Paleoclimatology Program. Its Web site also offers loads of links and useful background information.

Archived here are data on everything from Pacific corals (which bear isotope signatures of sea temperatures) to Greenland ice cores (which contain trapped ancient CO2 and isotopes) to loess in China (layers of silt from past dust storms). The site gets about 75 new data sets from scientists per year and covers some 10,000 locations around the globe, says data manager Bruce Bauer. His team is working on connecting the site's databases so users can pull up all data for a specific place.

There's also a primer on paleoclimatology and other educational features, including one on North American droughts. It concludes that the Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a brief blip compared to more severe droughts 500 years ago. If you're a scientist, check out a new page of resources on “paleotempestology,” the study of past hurricanes.

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