AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- New climate research released by UMass Amherst scientists is being described as "eyeopening."

New England's history is rich, dating back hundreds and hundreds of years.

Temperature data, however, is a lot harder to come by. Records only stretch back 150 years or so.

"New England is a very important area to understand climate history of. Unfortunately, there doesn't exist too many records that go back past the instrument record for New England," said UMass researcher Benjamin Keisling.

For the first time in the northeast, researchers from UMass Amherst have put together a high resolution temperature record dating back 900 years.

The team traveled to a small pond in southern Maine to collect sediment from the lake bottom.

"Cores are the sediment that build up year after year in the lake bed. We are able to drill through that and recover these long records of how the sediment changed over time," Keisling noted.

Much like ice cores trap carbon dioxide or tree rings show rainy or dry weather, the sediment cores contain membrane lipids from bacteria. By measuring those lipids, a correlation can be made to temperatures.

The team also deployed traps to collect sediment as it fell through the lake.

"What that allowed us to do is interpret the long record with more precision because we know at what time of year we had sediment falling from the environment and settling down in the lake bed," Keisling added.

The findings from the team have been somewhat unexpected.

"The temperatures have been fluctuating, but gradually cooling over the last 900 years. Now that we are seeing warming over the last 150 years, it shows us the human impact has been to reverse a long-term, ongoing trend that ecosystems were slowly able to adapt to," Keisling said.

While teams around the world are using similar methods, UMass researchers said it's important to have a data point in our own backyard.

"It's useful to have this data from all these sites to see, sort of from a regional scale for New England, how that fits in to the picture for our country and for the world," said Helen Habicht.

"The lake goes back about 12,000 years. We have more mud, we can go back farther, so we can go beyond 900 years," Habicht explained.

Who could've imagined mud would make our climate past a little, well, less muddy.

You can take a look at the most recently published paper on the team's findings by clicking the link here.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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