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Palaeoclimate and Climate Systems (PACS)


As our planet begins to respond to human-induced climate change it is vital to establish the natural range of climate variation that has occurred in the past. The Palaeoclimate and Climate Systems Research Group (PACS) studies patterns and processes of global change in Earth's history. Our objective is to better understand the response of the ocean-climate system to various types of forcing, such as changing greenhouse gas concentrations or ocean circulation patterns. Current research projects range across a wide variety of timescales. For example, at one end of the scale we are analyzing the causes and consequences of rapid climate change since the last ice age; at the other extreme we are investigating the reasons for the long-term global cooling since the age of the dinosaurs. Major research themes include Cenozoic global climate change, thermohaline circulation, Antarctic sea ice and marine environments.

Much of our work involves the analysis of marine sediment cores. These contain detailed histories of past climate states, including records of both sudden and gradual change. A typical research project will generate various kinds of data, such as records of temperature and chemical changes in the ancient water column, micropalaeontological records of plankton communities, and data recording changes in physical sedimentation processes on the sea floor. Information like this can be integrated into the bigger picture of geographical and temporal variability in climate, and the results compared with models and computer simulations. One feature of palaeoclimate research is its great and often bewildering complexity, but no less striking is that regular and often repetitive climate changes have happened in the past. These regular patterns demand explanations.

The Palaeoclimate Research Group has grown rapidly in recent years. We have benefited from major investment in new facilities, including the establishment of a Palaeoceanography Research Laboratory with two stable isotope mass spectrometers and a new high-resolution ICP-MS. Details of these, our core storage facility, and the analytical facilities can be found here.

For more information about group members, including recent publications, please visit the individual staff pages (scroll down):

Prof Paul Pearson (*group leader)
Research interests include micropalaeontology, paleoceanography, geochemistry, and evolutionary patterns and processes.

Prof Ian Hall
Research interests include records of palaeocurrent intensity and palaeocirculation, Holocene climate variability, and rapid climate change.

Dr Stephen Barker
Research interests include paleoclimate reconstruction and mechanisms.

Dr Caroline Lear
Research interests include palaeoceanography, palaeoclimatology, and biogenic carbonate trace metal proxies.

Dr Jenny Pike
Research interests include palaeoceanography, diatom taphonomy, and bioturbation and microbioturbation fabrics.