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Illustration by Jackie Roche

What can the ocean floor tell us about our climate future?

Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) is home to the Core Repository—one of the world’s most unique and important collections of scientific samples from the deep sea. Sediment cores (essentially mud) from every major ocean and sea are archived there. These samples, taken from deep beneath the ocean floor, contain clues not only about conditions on Earth millions of years ago, but also hint at what the future has in store for us.

Studies of these samples over the nearly seven decades of the Core Repository’s existence have led to groundbreaking discoveries, including revelations about the Earth’s cyclical climate patterns and what caused the mass migration of humans 65,000 years ago.

Today, the samples are used in LDEO’s work to learn from past instances of climate change to best prepare for climate change in the future. Recent analysis of the core samples predict that large areas of North America, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East could become less hospitable to life due to water shortages. Learn more.

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