SISAL - Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and AnaLysis



The Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis & Analysis (SISAL) working group will bring together speleothem scientists, speleothem-process modelers, statisticians and climate modelers to develop a global synthesis of speleothem isotopes that can be used both to explore past climate changes and in model evaluation.
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Twitter: @SISAL_wg


- Identify the current status of speleothem-based paleoclimate reconstructions globally.
- Initiate the compilation of raw data and metadata needed to create a publicly available global database of speleothem δ18O and δ13C records.
- Agree on structure and contents of the global database.
- Discuss how the speleothem data can be used in paleoclimate modeling studies.
- Identify the needs and potential downfalls of these climate archives before the paleoclimate community can use the dataset to feed model simulations in the framework of the next phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6).


Laia Comas-Bru (University of Reading, UK; Group Leader and mailing list administrator)
Nikita Kaushal (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Sandy Harrison (University of Reading, UK)


Phase 1
 Phase 2
 Feb '20
Feb 2023


articipants at the group's 3rd workshop, in Morocco October 2018. Click to enlarge.

Speleothems are secondary cave deposits formed mostly from calcium carbonates (CaCO3). These climate archives are well distributed worldwide and thus they are not only valuable archives for regional climate but also for continental and inter-continental comparisons. Also, due to the high precision of Uranium-series dating, speleothems provide an opportunity to trace leads and lags of global events. 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.

Speleothems provide a unique opportunity for reconstructing climate drivers and change on various spatial and temporal scales during the last 21,000 years and beyond. These reconstructions can be used to evaluate state-of-the-art climate models that explicitly simulate water and carbon isotopes and/or atmospheric tracers such as dust. There are more than 400 published speleothem records; synthesis of these records, including assessment of the quality and reliability of individual records, is the goal of the SISAL (Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and AnaLysis) WG.

sisal map mar19

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: Cave sites included in the version 1b of the SISAL database (purple circles) and sites identified for future releases of the database (green triangles) on the Global Karst Aquifer Map (WOKAM project; Chen et al. 2017:
From: Chen Z, Auler AS, Bakalowicz M, Drew D, Griger F, Hartmann J, Jiang G, Moosdorf N, Richts A, Stevanovic Z, Veni G, Goldscheider N (2017) The World Karst Aquifer Mapping project: concept, mapping procedure and map of Europe. Hydrogeology Journal, 25(3): 771-785.


January 2019: Development of the interim database SISAL v1c for the Regional Monsoon paper (Parker, Harrison et al.). Note that SISAL_v1c will not be uploaded to the University of Reading Research Data archive until the paper to which it is linked is submitted.

November 2018: Development of the database SISAL v1b for the SISAL paper "Evaluating model outputs using integrated global speleothem records of climate change since the last glacial" (Comas-Bru et al.) has been posted (4 March 2019) as a discussion paper in Climate of the Past Discussions here. Access the updated database here.

September 2018: The working group published "SISAL database v1 (Atsawawaranunt et al. 2018), available through the University of Reading Research Data Archive. Access the database here.

Learn more and participate

Subscribe to the SISAL mailing list here.

This group is open to anyone who is interested. To participate contact a member of the Steering Group.

Follow the working group on Twitter.

sisal cave

Grotte de Villars, France. Image credit: Dr Andy Baker.