Why research what the climate was like millions of years ago?

Earth's climate is predicted to change rapidly in ways that could have serious consequences for humanity. However, the climate has varied throughout the billions of years of Earth's geological history.

Rocks record evidence for past climates including the extreme conditions that have been linked to mass extinctions.

'By understanding the climate changes of the past, we will have more knowledge and information to predict climate changes of the future.'

Selected research

The AnthropoceneThe Anthropocene

Humans have had such an impact on the environment that scientists are debating whether we have entered a new geological time Epoch — The Anthropocene.

HoloceneHolocene climate events in the central Irish Sea

Research into climate change events in the Holocene can help predict potential consequences to the North Atlantic system.

PlioceneWhat can fossil shells tell us about the environment 3.5 million years ago?

A comparison of modern-day scallops and fossils bivalve shells provide information about the environment during the Pliocene.

Antarctic icePliocene Antarctic high latitude climate change

Fossil material from the Antarctic is providing information about the climate five million years ago. Information about the research.

VolcanoesDo volcanoes trigger climate change? 1 MB pdf

Huge volcanic eruptions may have pushed the climate from global warming to global cooling 16 million years ago in the Miocene. The theory could have big implications for efforts to slow climate change by fertilising plankton in the ocean.

PETMPalaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)

The PETM represents a 'tipping point' and a potential analogue for future climate change. Information about BGS research and findings.

??Computer modelling past climates

Climate models are an important tool for both understanding past climates and making future predictions. BGS is working with Leeds University to model the Pliocene climate.

Bering SeaBering Sea climate change investigations | IODP

Understanding exchange of heat and chemical elements running through the Bering Straight and their influence on Arctic and North Pacific environments, how sea ice accelerates climate change and how subpolar ecosystems respond to climate change.


Contact Dr James Riding, Palaeoclimate & Palaeoenvironment, for more information.