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When it comes to climate, past is prologue: Learning about climate conditions in the Earth’s distant past can help us understand trends we observe today and even predict what the future might hold. Past climate reconstructions use a wide range of tools: ancient air bubbles trapped in glacial ice, chemical and geological signature in cores of mud taken from the bottom of the ocean, and even messages contained in the shells of long-dead marine organisms.
This research area focuses on understanding the responses of ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice, and snow cover to past climate drivers in order to understand what might happen in the future. Some of these researchers use ice cores containing layers of ancient ice, while others study sediment cores from lakes and the sea floor, or uplifted marine deposits near ice-covered regions. Scientists also use tools like mathematical modeling and isotope analysis.
The interdisciplinary paleoceanography program at Oregon State is among the world's best. Faculty explore a range of compelling research topics, including developing and using proxies for reconstructing ocean circulation, temperature, and chemistry; using micropaleontological, isotopic, and geochemical approaches to paleoscience; and examining the paleoclimate record to test and calibrate models in order to predict future change.
CEOAS paleoclimate researchers are working to reveal Earth’s past climatic changes by collecting and analyzing deep-sea and lake sediment cores, polar ice cores and glacial and other sedimentary deposits from around the world. They use these data to examine issues such as long-term changes in temperature and rainfall and climate-driven ecosystem shifts, many aspects of which respond to changes in external forcings such as modifications of Earth’s surface through tectonic and volcanic processes. Scientists also incorporate these data into mathematical models to understand and predict future change.