Abrupt climate change

Topic Selected: Climate Change

General Article icon Type: General Article

Recent climate change research has uncovered a disturbing feature of the Earth’s climate system: it is capable of sudden, violent shifts. This is a critically important realisation. Climate change will not necessarily be gradual, as assumed in most climate change projections, but may instead involve sudden jumps between very different states. This would present an enormous challenge to human societies and the global environment as a whole.

While no such violent shift has occurred over the duration of human civilisation, records of prehistoric shifts are clear. By studying a range of long-term natural records – including tree rings, cave deposits, ice cores and deep-sea sediments – scientists have begun to assemble an almanac of global change spanning hundreds of thousands of years. One of the most important findings to come from these records is that the climate system has undergone many sudden shifts.

The Great Ocean Conveyor

The Great Oc

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