During the past two decades scientists and governments have progressively been drawn towards a search for a fuller understanding of the mechanisms of climatic change. In recent times attention of the public has been drawn to an apparent increase in adverse weather conditions leading to such processes as increasing mean world sea levels and accelerated desertification. The leading question was and still is 'how much of this is small oscillations on a longer term climatic trend'. Equally importantly, 'how much is related directly to man's activities'.
Less easy to speculate upon are tectonic signals. Many, such as the Mount St Helens eruption, leave a legacy of atmospheric repercussions felt for many years, yet these are effectively instantaneous in a geological context. In contrast, longer term plate and polar wanderings, and mountain-building episodes, are insignificant when measured in a human life span.
The mainly observational data set upon which scientists base all predictions for future change spans little more than a few centuries. Only by accurately interpreting the sedimentary record will it be possible to extend the 'data set', thereby providing the spring-board upon which to base forward projections. There is, therefore, a pressing fundamental requirement to establish a set of tools which will tease out the tectonic and climatic strands from the depositional record.
A two day meeting was held at Burlington House jointly by the British Sedimentological Research Group and the Geological Society (26–27 June 1997) specifically to address some of these problems by examining a range of