How Did We Get Here?
With a discovery made from fossils in the seabed, paleoceanographers and paleoclimatologists began tracing the delicate path between ancient eras and our future.
The shells of tiny ancient sea organisms hold the evidence that underpins one of the newest fields in the Earth sciences. In the 1950s, Cesare Emiliani at the University of Chicago was learning how to measure stable isotopes in invertebrates and use those data as a proxy to make conclusions about environmental factors. One day he turned that study to ancient foraminifera taken from sediments in the ocean floor. The oxygen isotopes he found in their shells told him that the ocean was once much warmer—that, in fact, the ocean changed over time. Paleoceanography was born. Read more.