Bit of a mouthful eh! Let’s break it down. Paleo=old, climat=climate, ology=study of. Therefore paleoclimatology = OldClimateStudyOf. Or, in plain English: Palaeoclimatology is the study of past climates. Over the 4.5 billion years or so that the earth has been around the climate has both slowly and abruptly changed. Through massive glaciations that might have covered the entire earth so super-scorching hot house conditions with no-ice and deserts covering large parts of the planets. We’ve had tropical rainforests at the poles, ice at the equator and everything in between.

The earth’s climate varies on multiple scales through loads of forcings. Changes in the output of the sun, composition of the atmosphere and the locations of the continents play important roles. Life itself has been altering the climate, both for its benefit and destruction for billions of years. Volcanoes and asteroids provide sharp shocks to the system. Wobbles in the earth’s orbit control the waxing and waning of ice-sheets. The atmosphere and oceans transport heat and moisture from equator to pole. The history of the earth’s climate is rich and diverse. Its endlessly fascinating and the study of it forms a large part of the Earth Sciences.

Paleoclimatology has always fascinated me as an important aspect of the Earth Sciences. Back when I was interested in Dinosaurs, I didn’t just wanted to know about the animals, I wanted to know where they lived, in forests, in deserts. Did they get rained on a lot? But it wasn’t just the dinosaurs, what did early humans, caveman, live through. How were their lives different to ours. The earth’s climate has been responsible for many of the major changes in earth’s history. Many mass extinctions have been caused by perturbations to the climate. What did the giant mega eruptions from giant volcanoes like Yellowstone do to our climate. Did they cool us down, heat us up. So many questions about the history of our planet. A history than leads all the way up to us, the world around us. Our landscapes, our lives and even ourselves are a product of all that has gone before, and with climate playing such a large shaping role, the study of paleoclimate is brilliant and interesting.

Read on in this section for more about paleoclimate.