“Speak to the past and it shall teach thee”. I first read those words on a dedication tablet within the John Carter Brown library at Brown University where I was a graduate student. Little did I know the phrase would accurately describe the next three and a half decades of my career. Paleoclimate data are the language we use to look into the past to understand ourselves and ultimately our future.
To understand our world's changing climate, it is imperative that we understand how climates of the past varied. This collection brings together a series of papers published at Scientific Data that describe and share valuable data on past climates, i.e. 'paleoclimate data'. The data were obtained from a variety of sources, including historical records that can inform us about the recent past, and biological or fossil proxies that allow us to learn about climates that existed long before man walked the Earth. They have been organized below into two sections according to the level of data processing. Learn more about these levels by reading the Comment by Harry Dowsett, 'Speaking to the past'.
Photo description: Marine microfossils (planktic foraminifera) are identified and sorted by species on a faunal assemblage slide to gain quantitative census data. These primary data can be analyzed to yield a variety of paleoclimate information used to reconstruct past conditions. Photo by USGS.