Clues From the Past, Lessons for the Future?
Heat waves, droughts and hurricanes all seem to be occurring with increasing frequency. These events disproportionately affect the world’s most vulnerable people. But are these events really occurring more often than they did in the past? And if so, are human activities to blame or are these changes just part of a natural cycle? Dr. Matthew Peros, Canada Research Chair in Climate and Environmental Change, is studying natural climate variability and its causes using such geological evidence as lake sediments. Peros is learning much about the past from clues contained in fossils and physical and chemical indicators from the archives of past climates and environments. By doing so, he is able to place the changes seen over the last half century into a long-term context. This will improve understanding of the relative importance of human activities and natural causes in driving climate change. Peros is also seeking to answer how climate has changed in the Arctic since the last Ice Age, the way that hurricane activity has varied over the last 5,000 years and the impact of prehistoric humans on the environment in North America. Peros’ research will improve forecasts of future climate change scenarios and help predict the response of ecosystems to abrupt climate variability. His work will also help identify which populations will be especially vulnerable to environmental change in the coming decades.