School Seminar Title: What do we know about abrupt climate change?

Speaker: Prof. John Haslett

Date: 2013-03-08

Time: 12pm

Place: LCR

Discipline: Statistics

Slides: SCSS.palaeo.Mar.2013.pdf


That the Earth has been steadily warming over recent centuries is now well known. In this seminar we discuss climate research on much longer time scales, the emphasis being on the research methods involved in making statements concerning the climate of the past. This provides abundant evidence of abrupt past climate change, For example the 2007 IPCC report says “During the last glacial period, abrupt regional warmings (probably up to 16?C within decades over Greenland) occurred repeatedly over the North Atlantic region”. What is the basis for such statements? More critically, what are the uncertainties associated with these? And what are the implications of such uncertainties for planning? Much of the story is now available in an accessible form for a general audience. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (see web pages below) provides the skeleton for the seminar. Several useful Wikipedia pages elaborate on detail. The popular science books by Fagan and Diamond provide examples of the impact of past climate change on past civilisations.


  • NOAA: A Paleo Perspective on Abrupt Climate Change
  • IPCC Chapter 6 Palaeoclimate
  • Fagan, Brian (2004) The long summer : how climate changed civilization, Granta
  • Diamond, Jared (2006) Collapse : how societies choose to fail or survive, Penguin
  • Temperature record of the past 1000 years.
  • The Hockey Stick controversy:
  • Younger Dryas
  • Climate proxies

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