Researchers attached with six British universities have concluded that fossilized midges have the potential to predict climate change in the future.
According to experts at the University of Liverpool, the University of Swansea; the Open University; the University of Exeter; the Edge Hill University and the University College London, two episodes of abrupt climate change suggest that the climate in the United Kingdom is not as stable as was previously thought.
The episodes were discovered at a study in Hawes Water in Northern Lancashire, where the team used a unique combination of isotope studies and analysis of fossilised midge heads. Together they indicated where the climate shifts occurred and the temperature of the atmosphere at the time.
Research suggests that the first shift detected occurred around 9,000 years ago and the second around 8,000 years ago, and that these shifts were due to changes in the Gulf Stream, which normally keeps the UK climate warm and wet.
During each shift the North West climate cooled with an average summer temperature fall of 1.6 degrees - approximately three times the amount of temperature change currently attributed to global warming.
Scientists found that the atmosphere cooled rapidly and cold periods lasted up to 50 years for one event and 150 years for the other.
The detection of these events will allow experts to understand more clearly what can happen when the climate system is disturbed.
Professor Jim Marshall, from the University's Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: "We have monitored the modern environment of the lake for the past eight years and this has shown us how to read the past climate record from the ancient mud in the lake. Isotope analysis helped us identify the episodes of climate change."
He said that fossilised heads of non-biting midges can indicate the temperature of the mud at the time of its deposit.
Scientists believe that this new data will provided a unique test for the global climate computer models that are being used to simulate future climate change.
The research is published in Geology.