Leveraging the Geologic Record to Constrain Solar System Evolution, Earth-Moon Dynamics, Paleoclimate Change, and Geological Time

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Heising-Simons Foundation
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Climate Change Science

This research project will integrate science from paleoclimatology, geophysics and astronomy with five concurrent collaborations and an educational/early career program to trace the evolution of the Solar System, Earth-Moon dynamics and Earth’s paleoclimate system withstate-of-the-art analysis and modeling of geological data. The main themes of inquiry include:

  • Secular evolution of planetary fundamental frequencies 
  • Earth’s rotation history and Earth-Moon dynamics
  • Chaotic dynamics and long-term stability of the Solar System
  • Paleoclimate responses to astronomical-geophysical-radiative balance forcing
  • Improvements and extensions to astrochronology

We seek to show how it is possible to acquire fundamental new empirical knowledge of Solar System dynamics and Earth system sensitivity from the sedimentary record that will allow tests of astronomical models and overcome a ~50-million-year-before-present (Ma) limit of predictability imposed by chaos. The only empirical basis documenting the past actual behavior of the Solar and Earth-Moon systems lies in the geological record on Earth. This project will run concurrently with and benefit from a recently initiated “sister” project in France, The AstroGeo Project, which seeks to develop a set of searchable astronomical solutions for pre-50 Ma geological data calibration. Our project differs fundamentally from AstroGeo in obtaining new, highly resolved and ground-truthed data, our strategy in employing the data to constrain astronomical solutions, utilizing advanced statistical techniques for correlation and uncertainty quantification, and involving experts from diverse fields crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries for an unprecedented integrated investigation of the above science themes.