Big Data for Paleo

Data Science for paleohydrology and translational paleoclimatology


The paleoclimate record offers a unique perspective on climate system behavior, and unique constraints on the Earth system models used for climate projections. Yet, paleoclimate data have proven difficult to synthesize, and are seldom linked to societally relevant outcomes (e.g. better hazard quantification). Leaning on emerging standards for paleoclimate data, this study takes advantage of cutting-edge paleoclimate data compilations (e.g. SISAL) to answer 2 fundamental and hazard-related questions in climate dynamics: (Q1) How synchronous are hydroclimate regime transitions since the last deglaciation? and (Q2) How can knowledge of past temperature variations help reduce the spread of twenty-first century climate projections?

As an example, the figure below illustrates how several novel timeseries analysis techniques (e.g. change-point detection, uncertise, event synchronization) may be applied to the SISAL compilation of speleothem records, taking advantage of their age ensembles to detect abrupt transitions within age uncertainties.

(a) Asian caves from the SISAL database, version 2. (b) Detection of abrupt transitions via the [uncertise]( method. (c) Leading principal component of a Monte Carlo Principal Component analysis ([Deninger et al, 2017](, with 5-95% quantiles (shaded envelope).

In addition, this grant initially supported 3 yearly, 20-person workshops to disseminate the techniques developed as part of this grant, and train a new generation of paleoclimatologists in using of the Linked Paleo Data research ecosystem, particularly Pyleoclim. The workshops were initially planned to take place on USC’s Wrigley Marine Science Center, but with the COVID19 pandemic the events (as so many) were moved online, as biyearly hackathons gathering 40 to 50 participants each, thus broadening their reach. Thus PaleoHack was born, and will continue as long as there are demand and funds!


This project, led by J.E.G., is a collaboration between USC (J.E.G., Deborah Khider, Alexander James), UT Austin (Jud Partin) and UCLA (Chad Thackeray, Stephen Cropper).


This project is supported by the Paleoclimate Perspectives on Climate Change (P2C2) program from the National Science Foundation (grant 2002558)