Understanding the past to understand the future: Climate science at Princeton

Written by
Liz Fuller-Wright
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications
Aug. 28, 2020

Understanding the Earth’s climate requires looking at many of its systems and how they interact. Princeton researchers have been at the forefront of uncovering and explaining this interplay for more than a half-century.

Princeton oceanographers and field geologists have fanned out across the globe to understand what oceans and ecosystems are doing today and have contributed crucial data and techniques to climate models that were developed here at Princeton.

The University’s paleoclimatologists use fossils, pollen records, ice cores and other tools to study how the global climate has changed in the planet’s long history. Ice cores, for example, have produced the best evidence that carbon dioxide is linked to the Earth’s climate, and Princeton scientists have both gathered the oldest ice ever recovered and pioneered critically important techniques for understanding them.

Understanding the Earth’s carbon cycle involves many scientific disciplines and methods — in the lab and in the field — whether it’s oceanographers sampling air and water in real time or a meteorologist creating a mathematical model to run on high-speed computers. At Princeton, innovation in climate science is an ongoing enterprise for five decades and counting.

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