Navigation Links
Tipping elements remain a 'hot' issue

Research published by climate scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has been named one of the most highly-cited in its field in the last two years.

The article, 'Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system', appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February 2008 and was this month named a 'New Hot Paper' by Thomson Reuters.

"The article captures the zeitgeist of a growing group of climate scientists who perceive that human activities are already pushing Earth's climate past regional tipping points," said lead author Prof Tim Lenton of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences.

Prof Lenton's team worked closely on the research with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.

The researchers introduced the term ''tipping element'' to describe large-scale components of the Earth system that may be pushed past critical thresholds by anthropogenic forcing of the climate system. On the verge of tipping, tiny perturbations could have large long-term consequences on human and ecological systems.

The work has profound economic and political implications and was named Research Project of the Year 2008 by the Times Higher Education newspaper.

"Our paper has sensitized the public to the possibility of highly nonlinear reactions of nature to human interference with the climate system," said Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK.

An example of a tipping element is the Arctic sea-ice. As sea-ice melts, it exposes a much darker ocean surface, which absorbs more radiation from the sun. This in turn amplifies the warming, decreases ice formation in winter, and causes more rapid melting in summer. The long-term trend in summer ice extent indicates a decline of 3.3 per cent for the last three decades. As reported in the Tipping Elements paper, there could be a nonlinear transition to a new stable state with no arctic sea-ice during summer within a few decades. The critical threshold global mean warming may be between 0.5 to 2 degrees Celsius and could already have been passed. Earth is about to lose the cooling white reflector for arctic summer sunlight and this could enhance global warming. [For daily image update from National Snow and Ice Data Center, click here:]

"We have been living under the illusion that climate change will be a smooth process. Our paper shatters that illusion," said Prof Lenton. "Large regions of the planet may undergo profound changes in state that in some cases are rapid and often are irreversible, with impacts on many millions of people."

Prof Schellnhuber added: "I guess we have added a relevant piece to the now compelling scientific evidence that one needs to confine global warming to two degrees Celsius if you wish to have a fair chance of avoiding unmanageable climate risks."

The researchers identified the common dynamics underlying nine of these tipping elements, including tropical monsoons, the Amazon rainforest, ocean circulation, and the great ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica.

"This helps bring together the interests and concerns of specialists in quite different fields including climatology, ecology, oceanography and glaciology," said Prof Lenton.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber had introduced the overall tipping-points concept into the scientific community. The specific research generating the paper began with a workshop at the British Embassy in Berlin in October 2005, which brought together UK and German scientists to debate and begin to identify the potential tipping points in the climate system. A process led by co-authors Elmar Kriegler and Jim Hall of eliciting responses from more international experts continued through the following year. Tim Lenton led a comprehensive review of the literature.

"The greatest challenge along the way was reconciling the inputs from a diverse group of co-authors, an even wider pool of expert opinions, and a huge body of literature," Lenton and Schellnhuber stated in an interview published on the Thomson Reuters 'Science Watch' website today.


Contact: Simon Dunford
University of East Anglia

Related biology news :

1. Tipping elements in the Earths climate system
2. Lowly Icelandic midges reveal ecosystems tipping points
3. 2 years old -- a childhood obesity tipping point?
4. Heart attacks: The tipping point
5. Selexis Announces Advanced Approach to Maximize Power of Genetic Elements for Rapid Development of High Performance Cell Lines
6. Ultraconserved elements in the genome: Are they indispensable?
7. From sheet metal elements to host cells: DFG launches 10 new collaborative research centers
8. New research shows how gene function drives natural selection in important class of genetic elements
9. Dust deposited in oceans may carry elements toxic to marine algae
10. Challenges remain in reintroducing American chestnut
11. Americans remain pessimistic about the environment, Stanford-AP survey finds
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/4/2015)... November 4, 2015 --> ... report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market ... Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security solutions market is ... by 2022. The market is estimated to expand at ... 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among customers at ...
(Date:10/29/2015)...   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical ... research, is pleased to announce that it has been ... one of only three finalists for a 2015 ... Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor Minnesota ... innovation and leadership. iMedNet™ eClinical ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Daon, a ... that it has released a new version of its ... in North America have already ... v4.0 also includes a FIDO UAF certified server ... already preparing to activate FIDO features. These customers include ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... November 26, 2015 ... Accutest Research Laboratories, a leading ... Organization (CRO), has formed a strategic ... - Temple Health for joint work ... (Photo: ) , --> ...
(Date:11/25/2015)...  PharmAthene, Inc. (NYSE MKT: PIP) announced  today that ... plan (Rights Plan) in an effort to preserve the ... Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). ... of its NOLs could be substantially limited if the ... 382 of the Code. In general, an ownership change ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... HOLLISTON, Mass. , Nov. 25, 2015 ... a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants for life-threatening ... will present at the LD Micro "Main Event" investor ... PT. The presentation will be webcast live and posted ... also be available at the conference for one-on-one meetings ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... IN (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... (AMA) and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with ... and other AMA team leaders met with OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: