Toward a Global Synthesis of Stable Isotope Records from Speleothems

21.06 - 23.06.2017  
Dublin, Ireland
Contact person:
Laia Comas Bru, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Workshop report: 
> Access

The new PAGES working group SISAL (Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and AnaLysis) will hold its first workshop, titled "Toward a Global Synthesis of Stable Isotope Records from Speleothems workshop" in Dublin, Ireland, from 21-23 June 2017.


The three-day workshop will be held at University College Dublin.

The workshop is limited to 25 participants. Key participants from the speleothem, analysis and modeling communities (including stakeholder communities) will be invited, and other interested scientists (and particularly early-career researchers) can apply to attend.

Timescales covered: The last 21,000 years.

Organizers would like to thank Past Global Changes (PAGES), European Geosciences Union (EGU), iCRAG (Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences), Geological Survey Ireland, Quaternary Research Association UK and the University of Reading for their financial support.

Workshop aims

This is the first meeting focussing on the creation of a global database of δ18O and δ13C speleothem records. What data to include, how to design the database, how to implement a consistent methodology (e.g. age model) and quality control requirements on the records will be discussed.


Speleothems, because of their extremely high temporal resolution and the excellent opportunities for dating, provide a unique opportunity for assessing climate changes on various spatial and temporal scales during the last 21,000 years and beyond. The different types of measurements made on speleothems, including the stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon (δ18O, δ13C) and various trace elements, can be used to reconstruct past changes in the hydrological cycle as well as changes in atmospheric composition.

Speleothem data could be useful for evaluating state-of-the-art climate models, especially those models that explicitly simulate water and carbon isotopes and/or atmospheric tracers such as dust. There have been only limited attempts to synthesise speleothem data globally, e.g. only seven speleothems are included in the standard PMIP benchmark dataset (Harrison et al. 2014). There are more than 500 published speleothem records. A global synthesis of speleothem data is therefore overdue, and this requires community-wide involvement.

The meeting will create a framework for the proposed global synthesis of speleothem records by:
- Identifying the current status of speleothem-based paleoclimate reconstructions globally.
- Discussing how the speleothem data can be used in palaeoclimate modeling studies.
- Identifying the speleothem research required for future palaeoclimate modeling studies.
- Initiating the compilation of raw data and metadata.

The creation of such database requires all the speleothem-based time-series to undergo quality controls regarding their reliability and interpretation. This requires inputs from representatives of the entire community. Thus, this meeting aims to bring together a representative group of speleothem scientists, with climate and speleothem-process modellers and statisticians, so that the database can be created.

This workshop is right at the heart of the PAGES’ science structure comprising PAGES Integrative Activities such as Data Stewardship and, through the speleothem data synthesis, Thresholds and Extreme Events. Further, the speleothem datasets synthesis will give a quantitative observation on climate dynamics from speleothems’ perspective and falls, therefore, within the PAGES scientific scope for Climate.

Confirmed speakers

Prof. Sandy Harrison (University of Reading, UK), PMIP and benchmarking
Dr Francisco Cruz (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil), speleothems in South America
Dr Hai Cheng (Xi’an Jiaotong University, Shaanxi, China), speleothems in China
Dr Robyn Pickering (University of Cape Town, South Africa), speleothems in Africa
Prof. Frank McDermott (University College Dublin, Ireland), speleothems in Europe and the rest of the world
Prof. Andy Baker (UNSW Sydney, Australia), speleothem modeling
Dr Allegra Nicole LeGrande (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies & Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University, US), isotope modeling in climate models
Prof. Mathiew Lachniet (University of Nevada, US), speleothems in North America
Dr Laia Comas Bru (University College Dublin, Ireland), the proposed database and quality control

Preliminary program

Day 1 (21 June)
09.00-09.10 Welcome and practical arrangements
Session 1: Introduction to the workshop
09.10-09.40 Sandy Harrison (University of Reading, UK): The Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project: evaluation and benchmarking of climate models in palaeo-mode
09.40-10.00 Dr Allegra LeGrande (NASA Goddard, US): Isotopes in climate models: past and present simulations and their evaluation
10.00-10.20 Dr Didier Roche (LSCE, France): Using a compilation of isotope data for model evaluation: status and issues
10.20-10.40 Prof. Andy Baker (UNSW, Australia): Forward modelling of speleothem growth and isotopic composition
10.40-11.00 Dr Laia Comas Bru (University College Dublin. Dublin, Ireland): The “Speleothem Records Synthesis” initiative - what we hope to achieve
11.00-11.30 Tea/Coffee break

Session 2: Regional overviews of speleothem data
11.00-11.20 Dr Hai Cheng (Xi’an Jiaotong University, China): China
11.20-11.40 Dr Francisco Cruz (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil): South America
11.40-12.00 Prof. Mathiew Lachniet (University of Nevada, US): North America
12.00-12.20 Dr Robyn Pickering (University of Cape Town, South Africa): Africa
12.20-12.40 Dr Petra Bajo (University of Melbourne, Australia): Australia
12.40-13.00 Prof. Frank McDermott (University College Dublin, Ireland): Europe and the rest of the world
13.00-14.00 Lunch break
14.00-16.00 Plenary discussion on the “Speleothem Records Synthesis” initiative
16.00-16.30 Tea/Coffee break
16.30-18.00 Parallel Break-out sessions: Definition of primary data to be included / Standardised age modeling / Designing a database for data-model comparisons

Day 2 (22 June)
09.00-10.00 Reporting on break-out sessions and plenary discussion (led by: Dr Laia Comas Bru, Dr Michael Deininger)
10.00-11.00 Show-and-tell session (Opportunity for all participants to show 2-3 slides on their current work, or raising issues about proposed speleothem synthesis and/or use for modeling)
11.00-11.30 Tea/Coffee break
11.30-13.00 Work session 1: Regional data compilation (In this session, participants will go through the checklist of sites and people for each region, including types of data available and accessibility, in order to create/check the metadata catalogue for the planned database)
13.00-14.00 Lunch break
14.00-16.00 Work session 2: Database construction I (In this session, participants will test the structure and contents of the database by compiling/entering individual data sets)
16.00-16.30 Tea/Coffee break
16.30-18.00 Plenary discussion: issues with the metadata catalogue, screening, data base structure and data (led by Prof. Sandy Harrison, Dr Andy Baker)

Day 3 (23 June)
09.00-11.00 Work session 3: Database construction II (Continued work on metadata catalogue and database construction)
11.00-11.30 Tea/Coffee break
11.00-13.00 Work session 4: Quality control and age modelling (In this session, participants will work in small groups (a) to refine the guidelines for quality control measures and flags, and (b) to develop the age modelling protocol)
13.00-14.00 Lunch break
14.00-15.30 Plenary discussion: The “Speleothem Records Synthesis” initiative - forward planning of analyses, data-model comparisons and publications
15.30-16.00 Tea/Coffee break
16.00-17.00 Plenary discussion: The “Speleothem Records Synthesis” initiative - forward planning of analyses, data-model comparisons and publications (continued)
17:00 Participants depart


There is an open call for letters of interest to participate in the meeting, for which a limited number of places are available.

To apply, please complete this form by 28 February:

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the places are filled. Early-career scientists and researchers from developing countries are especially encouraged to apply.

On the form, you can note whether you will need funding support to attend the workshop.

Further information

Contact workshop organizer Laia Comas Bru: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.