May 21, 2007

Have We Passed the Tipping Point?


As discussed here and here, climatologists are increasingly concerned about evidence of key tipping points, beyond which global warming rapidly accelerates, ultimately leading to a possibility of "sudden climate change."

As per Steven D at Booman Tribune, there is stunning evidence that we have passed a major tipping point, and much sooner than previously expected.

Via The Independent:
The earth's ability to soak up the gases causing global warming is beginning to fail because of rising temperatures, in a long-feared sign of "positive feedback," new research reveals today.

Climate change itself is weakening one of the principal "sinks" absorbing carbon dioxide - the Southern Ocean around Antarctica - a new study has found.

As a result, atmospheric CO2 levels may rise faster and bring about rising temperatures more quickly than previously anticipated. Stabilising the CO2 level, which must be done to bring the warming under control, is likely to become much more difficult, even if the world community agrees to do it. [...]

"This is the first unequivocal detection of a carbon sink weakening because of recent climate change," said the lead author of the study, Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia. "This is serious. Whenever the world has greatly warmed in the past, the weakening of CO2 sinks has contributed to it."

Others have characterized the study's results in even more alarming tones:

Ian Totterdell, a climate modeller at the Met Office Hadley Centre, described the research as “an important piece of work”.

He said: “This is the first time we have been able to get convincing evidence that a change in the uptake of CO2 by the oceans is linked to climate change. “It’s one of many feedbacks we didn’t expect to kick in until some way into the 21st century.”

We are witnessing changes that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Changes that were not predicted to occur for several more decades are showing up now, as you read these words of mine. Temperatures and sea levels rising faster than our climate change models predicted. Glaciers vanishing before our eyes. Ice melting in the interior of Antarctica in a region the size of California, where ice has never melted before in recorded history.

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