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The climates of the past can only be studied by proxy. Data is got from rocks, sediments, ice and tree rings, corals, shells and microfossils. These records are used to work out the past states of the Earth's climate and its atmospheric system.
Studies of past changes in the life and ecosystems of the past may throw a light on the present. An example is the effect of climate on mass extinctions and the recovery of life after those extinctions.
Notable climate events in Earth history
Knowledge of precise climatic events decreases as the record goes further back in time. Some notable climate events:
- Faint young Sun
- Huronian glaciation (~2400 mya Earth completely covered in ice probably due to Great Oxygenation Event)
- Later Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth (~600 mya, precursor to the Cambrian Explosion)
- Carboniferous rainforest collapse (~300 mya)
- Permian–Triassic extinction event (251.4 mya)
- Oceanic Anoxic Events (~120 mya, 93 mya, and others)
- Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (66 mya)
- Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum (Paleocene–Eocene, 55mya)
- Younger Dryas/The Big Freeze (~11 kya)
- Holocene climatic optimum (~7-3 kya)
- Climate changes of 535–536 AD
- Medieval warm period (900–1300)
- Little ice age (1300–1800)
- Sahney S. and Benton M.J. (2008). "Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological 275 (1636): 759–65. . . . http://journals.royalsociety.org/content/qq5un1810k7605h5/fulltext.pdf.