Climate 'tipping points' may arrive without warning

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Washington, Feb 10 (ANI): In a new study, a top ecological forecaster has said that climate 'tipping points' that can cause an irreparable global disaster may arrive without any warning as such.

The study, carried out by Alan Hastings from University of California, Davis, indicated that it is harder than experts thought to predict when sudden shifts in Earth's natural systems will occur.

"Many scientists are looking for the warning signs that herald sudden changes in natural systems, in hopes of forestalling those changes, or improving our preparations for them," said Hastings.

"Our new study found, unfortunately, that regime shifts with potentially large consequences can happen without warning - systems can 'tip' precipitously," he said.

"This means that some effects of global climate change on ecosystems can be seen only once the effects are dramatic. By that point returning the system to a desirable state will be difficult, if not impossible," he added.

The current study focuses on models from ecology, but its findings may be applicable to other complex systems, especially ones involving human dynamics such as harvesting of fish stocks or financial markets.

Scientists widely agree that global climate change is already causing major environmental effects, such as changes in the frequency and intensity of precipitation, droughts, heat waves and wildfires; rising sea level; water shortages in arid regions; new and larger pest outbreaks afflicting crops and forests; and expanding ranges for tropical pathogens that cause human illness.

They fear that worse is in store.

As US presidential science adviser John Holdren recently told a congressional committee, "Climate scientists worry about 'tipping points' ... thresholds beyond which a small additional increase in average temperature or some associated climate variable results in major changes to the affected system."

Among the tipping points Holdren listed were: the complete disappearance of Arctic sea ice in summer, leading to drastic changes in ocean circulation and climate patterns across the whole Northern Hemisphere; acceleration of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, driving rates of sea-level increase to 6 feet or more per century; and ocean acidification from carbon dioxide absorption, causing massive disruption in ocean food webs. (ANI)

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