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CO2 ‘tipping point’ triggered abrupt warming during glacial periods; gradual CO2 rise can lead to sudden change

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Scientists throw light on mysterious ice age temperature jumps

June 19, 2017 Cardiff University

Scientists believe they have discovered the reason behind mysterious changes to the climate that saw temperatures fluctuate by up to 15°C within just a few decades during the ice age periods. In a new study published today, the researchers show that rising levels of CO2 could have reached a tipping point during these glacial periods, triggering a series of chain events that caused temperatures to rise abruptly.

The findings, which have been published in the journal Nature Geoscience, add to mounting evidence suggesting that gradual changes such as a rising CO2 levels can lead to sudden surprises in our climate, which can be triggered when a certain threshold is crossed

Previous studies have shown that an essential part of the natural variability of our climate during glacial times is the repeated occurrence of abrupt climate transitions, known as Dansgaard-Oeschger events….”These findings add to mounting evidence suggesting that there are sweet spots or ‘windows of opportunity’ within climate space where so-called boundary conditions, such as the level of atmospheric CO2 or the size of continental ice sheets, make abrupt change more likely to occur….

Xu Zhang, Gregor Knorr, Gerrit Lohmann, Stephen Barker. Abrupt North Atlantic circulation changes in response to gradual CO2 forcing in a glacial climate state. Nature Geoscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2974

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