SKOPE: Synthesizing Knowledge of Past Environments

SKOPE (Synthesizing Knowledge of Past Environments) is a web site that can be used to get the best available data on climatic and other environmental data in the past. It provides both map-based and analytical/graphical information given a data type, location and a temporal interval of interest. The application is being improved and expanded but already provides high resolution climatic data for the last 2,000 years for the Southwestern states.

SKOPE Web Site:
Run the SKOPE Application:

  Project Details

Understanding coupled human and natural systems is a major research focus for the social and natural sciences. Implicit in the concept of a coupled natural and human system is the mutual dependency of human societies and their natural environments. Scholars examining anything other than short intervals in recent decades can assume neither a stable environment nor that today’s environment was replicated in the past. They need environmental knowledge specific to their spatial-temporal problem contexts. However, in accounting for environmental change they are likely to find that state-of-the-art data on past environments are difficult to discover and even more difficult to integrate, process, and interpret.

SKOPE is an online resource for paleoenvironmental data and models. It enables scholars to easily discover, explore, visualize, and synthesize knowledge of environments in the recent or remote past. Given a location and temporal interval, SKOPE offers access to diverse sources of long-term, high-resolution environmental data. As a dynamic resource; it will allow users to rerun models with different inputs and it will seamlessly accommodate new datasets and models. SKOPE builds on vast amounts of prior data collection and previous research, transforming those into readily usable environmental knowledge.

SKOPE addresses two critical challenges to contemporary science: increasing access to publicly funded research; and ensuring that scientific results are transparent and reproducible. SKOPE will provide robust support for reproducible scientific research requiring paleoenvironmental data. It will not just enable discovery and access to paleoenvironmental data; it will provide researchers with an unprecedented ability to explore the data’s provenance–a detailed, comprehensible record of the origin and computational derivation of the supplied data. Central to SKOPE’s comprehensive support for transparency, reproducibility and provenance management will be the further development of YesWorkflow, a system for revealing the fine-grained provenance of data produced by scripts, programs, and computational pipelines without adapting software to run within a scientific workflow management system and without the overhead of a runtime provenance recorder.

SKOPE is conceived as a tool that can serve diverse professional and academic communities. For example, planners could use its long-term environmental reconstructions to investigate vulnerabilities in existing infrastructure that are outside the experience provided by the historic record. It could be used by archaeologists examining the social consequences of long-term climate changes, or ecologists investigating long-term changes in biodiversity or ancient species distributions. More broadly, it empowers investigations that rely on long-term environmental data.

Partners: University of Illinois at Urbana -Champaign | Washington State University | Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

  Research Team

  • Keith Kintigh, ASU
  • Timothy Kohler, WSU
  • Bertram Ludäscher, UIUC
  • R. Kyle Bocinsk, CCAC
  • Ann Kinzig, ASU
  • Allen Lee, ASU
  • Timothy McPhillips, UIUC
  • Andrew Gillreath-Brown, WSU


National Science Foundation


Kohler, Timothy A., P.I. Buckland, K.W. Kintigh, R.K. Bocinsky, A. Brin, A. Gillreath-Brown, B. Ludäscher, T.M. McPhillips, R. Opitz, and J. Terstriep. 2018. Paleodata for and from archaeology. PAGES Magazine 26(2):68-69. DOI: 10.22498/pages.26.2.68 (downloadable from the link).

d’Alpoim Guedes, Jade A., Stefani A. Crabtree, R. Kyle Bocinsky, and Timothy A. Kohler. 2016 Twenty-first Century Approaches to Ancient Problems: Climate and Society. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. published ahead of print December 12, 2016, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1616188113

Bocinsky, R. Kyle. 2015. PaleoCAR: Paleoclimate Reconstruction from Tree Rings using Correlation Adjusted correlation. R package version 2.1.

Bocinsky, R. Kyle, Johnathan Rush, Keith W. Kintigh, and Timothy A. Kohler. 2016. Exploration and exploitation in the macrohistory of the prehispanic Pueblo Southwest. Science Advances 2, e1501532. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501532.

Bocinsky, R. Kyle. 2016. FedData: Functions to Automate Downloading Geospatial Data Available from Several Federated Data Sources. R package version 2.0.4.

Bocinsky, R. Kyle, and Timothy A. Kohler. 2014. A 2,000-year reconstruction of the rain-fed maize agricultural niche in the US Southwest. Nature Communications 5:5618. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6618.

Grimstead, Deanna N., Matthew C. Paile, and R. Kyle Bocinsky. 2017 Refining Potential Source Regions via Combined Maize Niche Modeling and Isotopes: a Case Study from Chaco Canyon, NM, USA. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, Published online 16 December 2017. doi: 10.1007/s10816-017-9359-6

Kintigh, Keith W., Katherine A. Spielmann, Adam Brin, K. Selçuk Candan, Tiffany Clark, and Matthew Peeples. 2018. Data Integration in the Service of Synthetic Research. Advances in Archaeological Practice. 6(1): 30-41. DOI:10.1017/aap.2017.33

Kohler , Timothy A., and R. Kyle Bocinsky. 2017. Crises as Opportunities for Culture Change. In Crisis to Collapse: The Archaeology of Social Breakdown, edited by Tim Cunningham and Jan Driessen, pp. 263-273. AEGIS 11. Presses Universitaires de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

McPhillips,Timothy, Tianhong Song,Tyler Kolisnik, Steve Aulenbach, Khalid Belhajjame, Kyle Bocinsky, Yang Cao, James Cheney, Fernando Chirigati, Saumen Dey, Juliana Freire, Christopher Jones, James Hanken, Keith W. Kintigh, Timothy A. Kohler, David Koop, James A. Macklin, Paolo Missier, Mark Schildhauer, Christopher Schwalm, Yaxing Wei, Mark Bieda, Bertram Ludäscher. 2015. YesWorkflow: A User-Oriented, Language-Independent Tool for Recovering Workflow Information from Scripts. International Journal of Digital Curation 10(1): 298–313. DOI: 10.2218/ijdc.v10i1.370