Abrupt Climate Change (SAP 3.4)
For this Synthesis and Assessment Report, abrupt climate change is defined as: A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. This report considers progress in understanding four types of abrupt change in the paleoclimatic record that stand out as being so rapid and large in their impact that if they were to recur, they would pose clear risks to society in terms of our ability to adapt: (1) rapid change in glaciers, ice sheets, and hence sea level; (2) widespread and sustained changes to the hydrologic cycle; (3) abrupt change in the northward flow of warm, salty water in the upper layers of the Atlantic Ocean associated with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC); and (4) rapid release to the atmosphere of methane trapped in permafrost and on continental margins. This report reflects the significant progress in understanding abrupt climate change that has been made since the report by the National Research Council in 2002 on this topic, and this report provides considerably greater detail and insight on these issues than did the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4). New paleoclimatic reconstructions have been developed that provide greater understanding of patterns and mechanisms of past abrupt climate change in the ocean and on land, and new observations are further revealing unanticipated rapid dynamic changes of modern glaciers, ice sheets, and ice shelves as well as processes that are contributing to these changes. This report reviews this progress. A summary and explanation of the main results is presented first, followed by an overview of the types of abrupt climate change considered in this report. The subsequent chapters then address each of these types of abrupt climate change, including a synthesis of the current state of knowledge and an assessment of the likelihood that one of these abrupt changes may occur in response to human influences on the climate system.
- Paperback | 258 pages
- 215.9 x 279.4 x 14.99mm | 748.42g
- 04 Feb 2015
- United States
- black & white illustrations