Conceptions of time in (paleo)climate science and some implications

Authors

  • Chris Caseldine

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    1. Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, UK
    • Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, UK

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Abstract

Palaeoscientists of necessity deal with time as a fundamental part of the research process and have developed understandings within the discipline of how to deal with a range of timescales from the deep time of Archaean geology to recent time, that is the last few centuries. Time has however largely been seen as providing a chronology, the ability to place events in sequence and through the implementation of various dating techniques to relate these sequences across space, providing fundamental information toward understanding cause and effect within the Earth system. Variability in the units of time, the differences between radiometric and sidereal or calendrical years is accounted for and not deemed significant. When dealing with other disciplines, either through research into the relationship of past societies to climate change, or when contributing to the concerns over future directions of climate problems arise in attempting to communicate the nature of timescales. The real issue is to reinforce the idea of change as a basic quality of the climate system, something that can occur very rapidly. It is open to question whether a concentration on timescales of climate change is proving a distraction in terms of communication from the most important issue. Change is a fundamental property of the global climate system, and from our paleoscience knowledge it is clear that change will continue into the future and could well be very rapid. WIREs Clim Change 2012 doi: 10.1002/wcc.178

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