Paleoclimate observations are crucial to assess the current climate change in the context of past variations. Low-frequency climate variability is crucial to adaptation and planning and it is generally recognized that only paleoclimate observations can adequately constrain it. Yet, these observations come in very disparate formats, hindering their re-use and hence lowering their value to science and society.
Observational work on paleoclimatology exemplifies the "long-tail" approach to effective decision-making: the majority of observations are gathered by independent scientist with no formal language for describing their data and meta-data to each other - or to machines - in a standardized fashion. Further, the diversity of archive types (e.g., trees, ice cores, lake or marine sediments, coral s, mollusks, speleothems) and measured quantities (e.g. trace metal concentrations, isotope ratios, layer thickness,...) has so far prevented the establishment of data standards to publish, share, and integrate such datasets.
The EarthCube-supported LinkedEarth project aims to change this by creating an online platform that (1) enables the curation of a publicly-accessible database by paleoclimate experts and (2) fosters the development of community standards. In turn, these developments enable more analysis tools to be built and applied to a wider array of datasets than ever possible before.
A pilot project has facilitated the work of hundreds of scientists working to better understand the climate of the past 2,000 years (PAGES2k), accelerating scientific discovery and the dissemination of its results to society. Facilitating access to geolocated data will open the door to integration with other disciplines (e.g. climate modeling, paleoecology, paleobiology, archeology), and to new educational tools, allowing educators to weave historical narratives around events documented in the paleoclimate record.