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Palaeo Proxies

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: TH

Context: The article highlights the limitations of temperature estimates from before the invention of thermometers, based on “palaeo proxies.” It calls the claims that a specific day was the warmest in over 100,000 years as scientifically unfounded.


What are Palaeo proxies?

Palaeo proxies, short for paleoclimate proxies, are indirect pieces of evidence that scientists use to infer past climate conditions. Since instrumental climate records (such as thermometer measurements) are only available for a relatively short period, usually a few hundred years, scientists rely on various natural sources to reconstruct climate conditions over longer timescales.

To estimate past temperatures, scientists also use isotopes that undergo steady radioactive decay.


Limitations of these techniques? 

Palaeo proxy technique has limitations. It can only provide temperature anomalies on long timescales, such as centuries or thousands of years. Even the best proxies only offer estimates on weekly or seasonal timescales. Additionally, all temperature proxies are local or regional, making global temperature estimates uncertain.



  • The proxies can help in understanding the response of modern humans to climate change. However, such proxies are not suitable for estimating daily temperatures.
  • Climate change is best understood over longer timescales, and making alarmist claims about daily records can jeopardize the credibility of climate action efforts.