BOX 1.3 Statement of Task

The geologic record contains physical, chemical, and biological indicators of a range of past climate states. As recent changes in atmospheric composition cause Earth’s climate to change, and amid suggestions that future change may cause the Earth to transition to a climatic state that is dramatically different from that of the recent past, there is an increasing focus on the geologic record as a repository of critical information for understanding the likely parameters and impacts of future change. To further our understanding of past climates, their signatures, and key environmental forcing parameters and their impact on ecosystems, an NRC study will:

• Assess the present state of knowledge of Earth’s deep-time paleoclimate record, with particular emphasis on the transition periods of major paleoclimate change.

• Describe opportunities for high-priority research, with particular emphasis on collaborative multidisciplinary activities.

• Outline the research and data infrastructure that will be required to accomplish the priority research objectives.

The report should also include concepts and suggestions for an effective education and outreach program.

focus of Chapter 3. The capabilities and limitations of existing models and proxies used to describe and understand past climates are addressed in Chapter 4, providing the backdrop for the recommendations for a high-priority deep-time climate research agenda and strategies to implement this agenda which are contained in Chapter 5. Some elements of this report—particularly the descriptions of existing scientific understanding of the paleoclimate record and the processes that have controlled that record—are necessarily technical; nevertheless, every effort has been made to present the material in terms that are accessible to the broadest possible audience.

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