How do we know?

Weather stations around the world measure daily temperatures and weather conditions, but to understand whether these temperatures are unusual and significant we also need to know about the Earth's past climate. This helps us understand the influence humans are having on the climate of today.

Clues to past temperature can be found in lots of different places, such as the rocks, the ice and the fossil remains of marine creatures. Scientists at the Museum use many of these methods to find out how Earth's climate has changed, and how it is changing now.

  • Members of the British Antarctic Survey recovering an ice core © British Antarctic Survey
    Ice cores

    Discover what ice cores from Antarctica can tell us about Earth's past temperature, carbon dioxide levels and the relationship between the two.

  • The small red-eyed damselfly, Erythromma viridulum
    Changing species distribution

    What can the changes in the woolly mammoth population in the last period of global warming tell us about the future of species in Britain today?

  • A bryozoan fossil from the Pliocene Epoch

    Find out how fossil bryozoans under the north Atlantic ocean can reveal the secrets of Earth's changing climate through history.

  • Museum scientists Steve Brooks collecting a sample, or mud core, from a lake in Siberia
    Sediment cores

    Explore how the study of midges in samples, or cores, taken from the bottom of lakes can be used to measure Earth's temperature.

  • Evaporite mineral sediments on rock
    The geological record

    Find out what different types of rock and mineral deposits can tell us about Earth's past climate.