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Tipping elements remain a 'hot' issue
Date:8/24/2009

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: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/]

"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.

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Contact: Simon Dunford
s.dunford@uea.ac.uk
44-160-359-2203
University of East Anglia
Source:Eurekalert

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