Understanidnig Proxy variables in climate science

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Frances Maynard
4 April 2018

A face to face session for Environmental Students to understand proxy variables and what they can tell us about past (paleo) temperature. 

Designed to complement Module written materials with PowerPoint and discussion of examples. 

Begin with two rocks: chalk from Cambridge and fossil coral from Yorkshire.  Questions:

  • Both found on dry land so what can they tell us about past conditions in Cambrdge and Yorkshire?  Marine? 
  • What do we infer from this? 

Not directly measurable but linked through correlation. 

Next use Powerpoint slides:

Explain oxygen isotopes: O-16 and O-18 One heavier than the other so what happens in cold or hot climate? 

This gives us different amounts in ice core bubbles which we can ,measure directly and from this infer past temperature. 

Expected outcomes of session: greater confidence in students in a apparently simple concpet that they may not have encountered before. 

Issues: fear of chemistry and foreign concepts (isotopes).  Need to break down intial caution/hesitancy to show the simplicity (and power) behind the concept.


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