Making predictions about climate variability often means looking to the past to find trends. Now paleoclimate researchers from the University of Missouri have found clues in exposed bedrock alongside an Alabama highway that could help forecast climate variability. In their study, the researchers verified evidence suggesting carbon dioxide decreased significantly at the end of the Ordovician Period, 450 million years ago, preceding an ice age and eventual mass extinction. These results will help climatologists better predict future environmental changes.The Ordovician geologic period included a climate characterized by high atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, warm average temperatures and flourishing life. Near the end of the period, CO2 levels dropped significantly but precisely when and how fast is poorly known. Kenneth MacLeod, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science, directed a research team studying the climate changes 450 million years ago to better understand the interactions among the biosphere, the oceans, atmospheric CO2 levels, and temperature.