The data are derived from pollen and foraminifera (plankton) remains in drilled marine sediment cores, sapropels, and other data that reflect historic climate; these are called proxies.
representing the peaks and troughs of the record at a still more detailed level.
Over 100 stages have been identified, going currently back some 6 million years, and the scale may in future reach back up to 15 mya.
Some stages, in particular MIS 5, are divided into sub-stages, such as "MIS 5a", with 5 a, c, and e being warm and b and d cold.
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Marine isotope stages (MIS), marine oxygen-isotope stages, or oxygen isotope stages (OIS), are alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth's paleoclimate, deduced from oxygen isotope data reflecting changes in temperature derived from data from deep sea core samples.