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Arctic Paleoclimatology and Sea Ice History

During the past few decades, Arctic temperatures have increased while annual and seasonal Arctic Ocean sea ice cover has decreased leading to greater coastal erosion, changes in marine ecosystems, habitats and productivity, and greater export of freshwater among other trends. Of particular concern is the decrease in Arctic sea ice extent and thickness, which has outpaced the rates predicted by climate models. Because instrumental records extend back only a few decades and there is large interannual and decadal variability, the causes of ongoing Arctic climate change remain unclear. Paleoclimatological records show the Arctic experienced major climate changes over timescales ranging from tens of millions of years to decades. Paleoclimate records preserved in Arctic Ocean sediments improve understanding of patterns and causes of Arctic climate change and shed light on possible future climate change and its impacts. The Arctic Paleoclimate and Sea Ice History Project is part of the USGS Climate and Land Use Program and uses evidence from Arctic Ocean sediments to reconstruct climate and sea ice history for the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. Its main objectives are to evaluate the natural sea ice, ocean circulation and climate variability in the Arctic using sediment core proxy records and to determine baseline rates and patterns of sea level change the last few millennia for comparison to modern rates.

contact: Laura Gemery

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