PROGRAM TITLE: 	Paleoclimatology Program
ACTIVITY STREAM:  	Observations; Process Research
SCIENCE ELEMENT: 	Earth System History

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
 
DESCRIPTION: The reliable prediction of decade to century-scale climate 
variability requires knowledge of past climate variability and an 
understanding of how the climate system operates on time scales longer than 
a few decades.  Most 50 to 150-year long instrumental records of past climate 
change are too short to obtain this knowledge.  Although many paleoclimatic 
time series exist, these records are limited to a few geographic regions, are 
generally not readily available, and do not adequately resolve decade- and 
century-scale climatic variance.  The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program is 
working systematically to fill this large void by providing the research 
funding 1) to generate key new time series, 2) to synthesize these series along 
with existing records, and 3) to use arrays of paleoclimatic data to study the 
patterns, processes, and causes of natural decade- to century-scale variability.  
The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program recently established the ICSU World 
Data Center for Paleoclimatology and has subsequently built the largest 
public-domain databank of global paleoenvironmental information.  In 
addition to yielding critical insights into the most recent patterns of decade to 
century-scale climatic variability, the NOAA research program also uses the 
paleoclimate record to understand how this variability can be affected by large 
abrupt changes in global climatic boundary conditions.  An understanding of 
how the climate system responded to altered forcing in the past will be key to 
predicting how climatic variability will be affected by future greenhouse 
warming.  This understanding may also help anticipate some types of climate 
system responses ("surprises") that are not apparent in the relatively benign 
record of climate change over the past 150 years.  While the NOAA 
paleoclimate research is global in scope, it also supports development of 
needed "paleo perspectives" for other program elements in NOAA and the 
USGCRP.  Development of centuries-long records of North American 
drought, ENSO-related changes, Asian monsoon variability, North Atlantic 
climate change, and marine ecosystem dynamics all receive high priority.  
Equally important are efforts to establish a paleoclimatic framework for 
testing the ability of predictive models to simulate the observed decade- to 
century-scale patterns of past climate, ocean, biosphere, and trace-gas change.  
The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program is backed by an enthusiastic research 
community, and is guided by strong national and international advisory 
structures.

STAKEHOLDERS:  The NOAA established ICSU World Data Center for 
Paleoclimatology serves to coordinate paleoenvironmental data generated by 
US agencies (NOAA, NSF, USGS, and USNPS), as well as data associated with 
the activities of the IGBP PAGES Core Project and the NATO/DOE-sponsored 
International Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project (PMIP).  In 
turn, PAGES and PMIP are focused on meeting NOAA's goals of improving 
our ability to predict future climatic change.  The NOAA Paleoclimatology 
Program contributes to the IPCC process via NOAA and IGBP PAGES 
channels.

SHORT-TERM POLICY PAYOFFS:  The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program 
contributes the long paleoclimatic time series needed, as a baseline, to identify 
the extent to which recent climatic change is driven by human activity.  The 
NOAA program also advances predictive skill by providing critical insights 
into the dynamics and causes of natural decade to century-scale climatic 
variability, as well as a validation framework for predictive models.  This 
understanding of long-term climatic variability is critical to intelligent policy 
formulation.

PROGRAM CONTACT: Dr. C. Mark Eakin; NOAA/GP, 1100 Wayne Ave., 
Suite 1225, Silver Spring, MD, 20910-5603; 301-427-2089 x710 (voice); 301-427-
2073 (fax); M.Eakin (OMNET).