Objective and Rationale
Over the past decade, numerous groups within the broad community of sedimentary geology, paleoclimatology, and
paleobiology have repeatedly highlighted the importance of continental scientific drilling to address key science
questions in climate and linked Earth systems (e.g., the NSF-supported GeoSystems, DETELON, and Transitions
workshops, and the NRC Deep-Time Climate report; Soreghan et al., 2003, 2005; Montanez and Soreghan, 2006;
Montanez, 2010; Bottjer and Erwin, 2010; NRC, 2011; Parrish, 2012). In recognition of this sustained surge of interest,
we propose a workshop to identify high-priority sedimentary targets for scientific drilling intended to address key
questions on Earth System topics. The primary goal of this workshop is to galvanize research teams to plan
proposals for pursuing specific, high-priority drilling targets, intended to address key science questions related to
paleoclimate, paleobiology, and extreme events in Earth's history. All participants are expected to participate in
crafting the workshop proceedings, which will identify a roadmap of key science objectives and specific projects that
address pressing questions in the evolution of the earth system as recorded in sedimentary strata from all intervals of
earth history. Early career scientists and scientists from under-represented groups are encouraged to participate.
Earth's Lab Book: Imaging Our Past to Imagine Our Future
The nearly 4 billion years of history preserved in Earth's sedimentary cover record the results of innumerable
experiments in environmental and ecological change. We can harness the results of these past experiments as
preserved in the sedimentary record to expand our knowledge of Earth system behavior, particularly of coupling
between and among components of the Earth System and coupling of climate processes that operate at a variety of
rates. Doing so is particularly critical because major gaps remain in our ability to understand Earth's climate system,
contributing to modeling failures and climate-prediction uncertainty. For example, models cannot yet capture abrupt
climate change (Valdes, 2011), changes in clouds due to aerosol forcing (e.g., Mahowald et al., 2006; Kump and
Pollard, 2008), or simulations of ENSO phenomena (e.g. Philander and Federov, 2003; Guilyardi et al., 2009). The
importance of studying Earth's past to clarify its future is well understood by researchers investigating both the
"near-time" (e.g. Quaternary) record and the "deep-time" record. Such studies, however, are commonly hampered by
lack of access to continuous, pristine, ideally sited sedimentary sections.
Scientific drilling is widely regarded as key in advancing our understanding of critical questions of Earth's past, and
indeed several success stories bolster this claim. In the last two decades, several drilling campaigns in sedimentary
systems have addressed fundamental questions in the surficial archive of Earth, its biosphere, and the
physio-chemical processes that mold the outer veneer of our planet (e.g., Melles et al., 2012; Schulte et al., 2010).
These efforts have emanated from two distinctive communities: 1) Near-time geoscientists focusing on (primarily)
Quaternary paleoclimates/paleoenvironments (largely the lake science community), and 2) deep-time geoscientists
focusing on pre-Quaternary stratigraphy, Earth history, paleobiology, and biogeochemistry. The key science questions
posed by both of these communities, however, increasingly overlap, and the time frames of interest are converging.
Given that the boundaries that have traditionally separated these communities are both fluid and artificial, we feel it is
time to join forces to seek common ground on questions and research targets.
In the past 15 years, multiple initiatives and workshops have occurred involving the sedimentary geology/paleobiology
community, and have resulted in repeated calls for scientific drilling to address key questions. The PAGES report
Continental Drilling for Paleoclimatic Records (Colman, 1996) was particularly instrumental in galvanizing the lakes
community to embrace scientific drilling as an investigatory tool for obtaining long earth historical records. Crucial to
the success of that report was (1) the prior groundwork the workshop organizers did in polling the lakes and
Quaternary paleoclimate communities to determine what high priority targets had already been identified by the
community, and (2) the participation by well-informed proponents, who could effectively make the case for their
preferred drilling targets to their peers. Seventeen years after the publication of that report many (though by no means
all) of the workshop's goals (i.e. target lakes) have been drilled.
Subsequently, the GeoSystems workshops (2003, 2004) brought together representatives from the deep-time
community to advocate for systematically expanding Earth history investigations into, especially, paleoclimate, to
Earth's pre-Quaternary record. Both this and the PAGES workshop stressed drilling as an essential path toward
recovering critical records that had not been compromised by surface weathering or limited by the vagaries of outcrop
exposure, and indeed a jointly sponsored 2005 NSF-DOSECC workshop was specifically convened to address issues
in drilling for recovery of deep time records. More recently, workshops on Earth's "Deep Time Earth Life Observatory
Network" (DETELON, Bottjer and Irwin, 2010), and "Transitions" (Parrish, 2012) have further elevated and reiterated
the community's collective need for scientific drilling to address fundamental concepts in Earth System history, as did
the 2010 and 2011 National Research Council Reports on "Understanding Climate's Influence on Human Evolution"
and "Understanding Earth's Deep Past--Lessons for Our Climate Future" (NRC, 2011).
The "Future of Continental Scientific Drilling" workshop (Walton et al., 2009, 2010) identified the following needs
related to exploring Earth System history: 1) global environmental and ecological change, 2) the history of Earth and
its biota through time series studies based optimally on drill cores, 3) lake records containing climate proxies of
temperature, winds, precipitation, and watershed biotic evolution, 4) high-resolution records of Earth's magnetic field,
5) deep-time records addressing analogous questions to those of near-time, but including a wider spectrum of
boundary conditions, including those potentially relevant to Earth's near-term future return to a pre-Quaternary state (in
terms of atmospheric composition). Table 1 lists the themes and topics identified for continental scientific drilling in
the 2009 DOSECC workshop.
Advances in development of proxy and indicator data for climate parameters such as atmospheric composition, air
and water temperatures, effective moisture, atmospheric circulation, and productivity, together with parallel advances
in geochronologic resolution and accuracy (even for deep time), in ecosystem reconstruction, and in climate modeling
are enabling us to mine sedimentary archives for paleoclimate and other paleoenvironmental information at
unprecedented scales and resolution. Application of these advances to pristine, continuous, and well-preserved cores
will be a key component to future advances in understanding earth history.
Science Themes- A Sampling of Key Issues in Evolution of the Earth System
The 2012 Transitions report identified key science questions that focused on Earth's deep time archives, but that are
equally well suited for investigations targeting Earth's near-time record. These include:
1) What is the full range of potential climate system states and transitions experienced on earth?
2) What are the thresholds, feedbacks and tipping points in the climate system and how do they vary among different
3) What are the ranges of ecosystem response, modes of vulnerability and resilience to change in different Earth
4) How have climate, the oceans, the Earth's sedimentary crust, carbon sinks and soils and life itself evolved together,
through both near- and deep-time, and what does this tell us about the future trajectory of the integrated Earth-life
Drilling is essential for recovering high-resolution paleoclimate records to address the above questions. Drilling enables
recovery of strata in which the effects of modern weathering are minimized, which is necessary for many geochemical,
biogeochemical and geochronologic studies. Drilling also is essential for obtaining uninterrupted, very high resolution
records from thick, basin depocenter sections where stratigraphic completeness is greater than along basin margins.
Finally, drill core records enable validation and testing of climate model hindcasts for earth system states that
fundamentally differ from the modern; e.g. recent data results from Antarctica are helping to refine problematic climate
model predictions (Pross et al., 2012). At this point in time, the community needs to move past re-statements of
these common goals and actually identify drilling targets as the continental scientific drilling contribution toward
meeting these long-standing objectives.
The Path Forward
We need to move beyond stating generalities of the need to acquire core, to actually identifying and prioritizing targets
for specific sites to answer targeted science questions. This is the motivation for requiring, as an application to the
workshop, a brief (3 page) pre-proposal identifying a potential drilling target. The workshop will also consider drilling
project proposals submitted by scientists who for whatever reason are unable to attend the workshop.
The workshop will be held Friday May 17-midday Sunday May 19, 2013, NCED Hotel & Conference Center (National
Center for Employee Development), 2801 E State Highway 9, Norman, OK. Participants will be invited using an open
call for pre-proposals as described above, allowing for a maximum number of different drilling target ideas to be
represented by one or more proponents. A core group will prepare a draft report, and a summary white paper
discussing the potential drilling targets emanating from this workshop, tentatively entitled "Drilling for Imaging and
Imagining the Evolution of the Earth System."
To secure participation, all interested researchers are invited to submit a brief (maximum 3 pages) pre-proposal
identifying a viable continental scientific drilling target that addresses fundamental problems of scientific importance in
the areas of paleoclimate, earth history, stratigraphy, paleoecology and/or paleobiology from any interval of Earth
History. All proposals should briefly address the following criteria:
o Location and age of target deposits
o Compelling science issue(s)/hypotheses to be addressed by drilling, focusing on topics in paleoclimate,
paleoenvironments, paleobiology, and/or extreme events
o Stratigraphic completeness, continuity and resolution
o Existence of baseline stratigraphic, and paleontologic data
o Existence of, or potential to collect, supporting data from correlative outcrops, geophysics or prior drilling
o Existence of, or potential to collect, a robust age model through the target interval
o Challenges to drilling the site and obtaining subsurface information (e.g., suitable terrain for site-survey geophysics)
o Access for drilling equipment
o Permitting issues
o Complexity of operations, local impact/cooperation (community and environmental)
We encourage pre-proposals to be submitted by teams of interdisciplinary researchers and will strive to accommodate
as many members of a team as funds allow, while enabling as many teams to be represented as possible.
The workshop is meant to enable proponents to exchange information and best practices in order to ultimately develop
more sophisticated proposals for future drilling. Proponents should be prepared to become centrally involved in
subsequent geophysical and logistical site survey proposals and follow-on work aimed to advance promising drilling
Pre-proposals are due by July 31, 2013. They should be a maximum of 3 pages in length, not including references,
and submitted via email as .pdf files to
Dr. Lynn Soreghan (email@example.com; School of Geology & Geophysics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019)
Dr. Andrew Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org; Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721)
Bottjer, D., and Erwin, D., 2010, DETELON Workshop Report: http://www.detelon.org, 13 p.
Colman, S.M., 1996, Continental Drilling for Paleoclimatic Records: Recommendations from an International Workshop: PAGES Workshop
Report Series 96-4, 104 pp.
Guilyardi, E., Wittenberg, A., Federov, A., Collins, M., Wang, C., Capotondi, A., Jan van Oldengorgh, G., and Stockdale, T., 2009,
Understanding El Nino in Ocean-Atmosphere General Circulation Models—Progress and Challenges: American Meteorlogical Society, p.
Kump, L.R., and Pollard, D., 2008, Amplification of Cretaceous warmth by biological cloud feedbacks: Science, v. 320, p. 195.
Melles, M., and 16 others, 2012, 2.8. Million years of Arctic climate change from Lake El’gygytgyn, NE Russia: Science, v. 337, p. 315-320.
Montanez, I., and Soreghan, G., 2006, Earth's fickle climate: Lessons learned from deep-time ice ages: Geotimes, v. 51, p. 24–27.
Montanez, I., 2010, Grand Challenges in Sedimentary Geology, Geochemistry, and Paleobiology: Report of NSF Workshop.
Philander, S.G., and Fedorov, A.V., 2003, Role of tropics in changing the response to Milankovitch forcing some three million years ago:
Paleoceanography, v. 18, 1045, doi:10.1029/2002PA000837.
Pross, J., and 16 others, 2012, Persistent near-tropical warmth on the Antarctic continent during the early Eocene epoch: Nature, v. 488, p.
National Research Council (NRC), 2011, Understanding Earth’s Deep Past: Lessons for Our Climate Future: National Academies Press, 212 p.
Parrish, J., 2012, Transitions: The Changing Earth-Life System—Critical Information for Society from the Deep Past: Report of NSF-Sponsored
Workshop, 64 p.
Scholz, CA, Johnson, TC, Cohen, AS, King, JW, Peck, J, Overpeck, JT, Talbot, MR, Brown, ET, Kalindekafe, L, Amoako, P, et al. 2007, East
African megadroughts between 135-75 kyr ago and implications for early human history Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 104:16416-16421.
Schulte, P., and 40 others, 2010, The Chicxulub asteroid impact and mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary: Science, v. 327,
Soreghan, G.S., 2003, Report of the NSF Sponsored Deep-Time Paleoclimate Workshop: NSF Workshop,, p. 14.
Soreghan, G., Bralower, T., Chandler, M., Kiehl, J., Lyle, M., Lyons, T., Maples, C., Montanez, I., and Otto-Bliesner, B., 2005, GeoSystems:
Probing Earth's deep-time climate and linked systems: Report of a workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation, p. 35.
Montanez, I., and Soreghan, G.S., 2006, Earth's fickle climate: Lessons learned from deep-time ice ages: Geotimes,, p. 24–27.
Walton, A., Clyde, W., Colman, S., Hickman, S., Koeberl, C., Miller, K., and Shervais, J., 2009, The future of continental scientific drilling: A U.S.
perspective: DOSECC Workshop Publication 1, 60 p.
Walton, A., Brigham-Grette, J., Shervais, J., and Snyder, W., 2010, Developing the U.S. Initiative in Continental Scientific Drilling: NSF-DOSECC
Workshop Publication, 48 p.
Valdes, P., 2011, Built for stability: Nature Geoscience, v. 4, p. 414-416.
Scientific Drilling and the Evolution of the Earth System:
Climate, Biota, Biogeochemistry, and Extreme Events
Conveners: Lynn Soreghan and Andrew Cohen
May 17-19, 2013
Until July 31, 2013
Copyright 2013 DZur Consultants
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May 17-19, 2013