The field of paleoclimatology, and more generally the broader field of “paleo‐science,” has seen substantial growth and increased recognition over the past decade. The prime motivation for these trends has been the need for a long‐term, or “paleo‐perspective” in understanding and assessing the environmental change that has been taking place and that will occur in the future. It is clear that climate varies substantially on all time scales, from seasons to millennia. It is also clear that the instrumental record of climate change is insufficient to observe and study how the climate system operates on time scales longer than a few decades, or under climatic forcing unlike that at present. The “paleo‐perspective” afforded by clever use of the paleoclimatic, paleoceanographic, and paleoecologic records can be tapped to put the present and future into the broad context of many realizations of past climate system dynamics. This paper reviews many of the important advances that have taken place recently in the field of paleoclimatology in a context illustrating the key role paleoclimatology plays in narrowing the uncertainties associated with predicting future change in the climate system. The American Geophysical Union has requested that this review focus on progress made by the U.S. scientific community, however many of the outstanding recent contributions in the field of paleoclimatology have been made by non‐U.S. scientists.
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