Climate of the Past

  • Climate of the Past
  • Lecturer: Dr. M. Werner

Lecture Content


This lecture will give an overview about the climate system and its changes during the past, focussing on the last million years. The main components and processes of the climate system as well as available different dating and analyses methods for paleoclimate research will be explained. Key paleoclimate archives, e.g. ice cores, marine sediment cores and different terrestrial records, will be discussed. The general overview will be supplemented by a presentation of some of the latest research results and most important open questions within the related fields of paleoclimate research.


  • The Earth‘s Climate System - Brief overview, components of the climate system: atmosphere, ocean, land surface, ice sheets
  • Tectonic-Scale Climate Change & Dating Methods, climate of the last 300 million years, tectonic changes, weathering effects, sea level changes, o-18 records, dating methods, radioisotopes, carbon-14, utan dating methods, paleomagnetism
  • Orbital-Scale Climate Change & Marine Records & Ice Core Records I, climate of the last 3 million years, orbital changes: obliquity, eccentricity and precession, past changes of the monsoon system, past variations of global ice volume, Milankovitch theory, marine records: general overview, drilling, dating, key analyses, ice core records I: general overview, drilling, dating, key findings from Antarctica
  • The Last Glacial-Interglacial Climate Transition & Ice Core Records II, LGM climate, CLIMAP reconstruction, cooling of the tropics, Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events,Younger Dryas, transition to the Holocene, ice core records II: key findings from Greenland
  • Holocene Variability and Present-Day Climate, Holocene climate in different proxy records, Bond cycles, Dendrochronology, Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age, solar and volcanic activity, the instrumental period, observed global warming of the century, attribution of climate change

Recommended Literature:

William F. Ruddiman, Earth's Climate – Past and Future, 2nd Edition, W. H. Freeman and Company Publishers, 2008.
Dynamical Paleoclimatology - A generalized theory of global climate change, B. Barry Saltzman, Academic Press, San Diego, 2001.
Raymond S. Bradley: Paleoclimatology - Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary, Academic Press, 1999.