Multidisciplinary studies of selected abrupt climate changes.
The current scientific emphasis on abrupt climate change was motivated by strong evidence in proxy records that showed extreme climatic changes in the past, sometimes occurring within periods of fewer than 10 years. Paleoclimatic records provide important information related to changes in many environmental variables. However, not all proxy archives provide equally high confidence for estimating past climatic conditions, such as temperature and precipitation, and for determining when and how rapidly changes occurred.
Confidence can be improved by encouraging coordinated, multi-parameter, multi-investigator study of selected archives that have seasonal to decadal time accuracy and resolution, substantial duplication of measurements to demonstrate reproducibility, and extensive calibration of the relation between climate and sedimentary characteristics. As one example, in the ice-core projects from central Greenland, duplication of the measurements by independent, international teams provides exceptional confidence in most data and reveals which data sets do not warrant confidence. Sampling at very high time resolution to produce data sets complementary to those of other investigators gives an exceptionally clear picture of past climate. Such projects require more funding and effort than are typical of paleoclimatic research, but they provide an essential reference standard of abrupt climate change to which other records can be compared. A difficulty is that this reference standard is from one place in high northern latitudes and is inappropriate for study of much of the climate system.
Not all paleoclimatic records can be studied in the same detail as those from Greenland, but generation of at least a few similar highly resolved (preferably annually or subannually) reference standards including a North Atlantic marine record comparable with Greenland records, would be of great value. The ultimate goal is to develop a global network of records with at least decadal resolution. Terrestrial and marine records of climate change and ecological response from the regions of the western Pacific warm pool (the warmest part of the global climate system) and the Southern Ocean and Antarctic continent (the southern cold pole of the climate system) are among the most critical targets for future paleoclimate research, including generation of reference standards.
Abrupt climate change is likely to influence water availability and therefore is of great concern for economic and ecological systems. Focus on measures of precipitation, evaporation, and the quantitative difference between them is particularly important. Freshwater balance is also important