Progress and paradigm shifts

Pioneering Holocene climate research was, I suspect, motivated by natural curiosity about our past. Since about 1985 and increasing concerns about global warming, however, Holocene climate research has acquired a key role in providing unique information about natural climate variability since the last glaciation (Chambers and Brain 2002). In this chapter, I identify 14 major stages or paradigm shifts in the development of Holocene climate research, all of which were due to or were associated with major methodologic developments, conceptual advances, increased scientific rigor, greater attention to detail, and/or investigations in different geographic areas. The first five stages form a unidirectional succession of paradigms from 1829 to about 1988, the time of COHMAP (Co-operative Holocene Mapping Project) and the first use of climate models to simulate past Holocene climate. Since then, the research activities in Holocene climate research have become so diverse, with many new techniques and research approaches, that progress and associated paradigm shifts are occurring rapidly and in parallel.

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