Can we predict tipping points?

Article by Hazell Ransome.

If we force some parts of our Earth system to change too much they will pass a “tipping point” where a future change to a new, unnatural state is unavoidable and irreversible [1].

There is little agreement about whether any tipping points will be crossed before 2100 [2] due to a lack of data and the difficulty climate models face in representing these processes [3]. Therefore, a prediction of a particular tipping point being crossed contains a lot of uncertainty [4].

Although the best climate models nowadays can consider many abrupt changes in climate [5], some processes are still unexplained [6]. For example, some models do not include the feedbacks causing the collapse of ice sheets [7,8] or those causing damage to vegetation [9].

Ice sheet and vegetation feedbacks are likely to have a more significant impact on tipping points in future centuries because their response is quite slow so we don’t see their results immediately [10]. Their exclusion from models means there could be even more land-based tipping points [9].

References

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