Early Warning from Space for a Few Key Tipping Points in Physical, Biological, and Social-Ecological Systems
In this paper, the latest results concerning a few key tipping elements of the Earth system in the ocean, cryosphere and land realms are reviewed. The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the tipping elements described in more detail. Indeed, recent progress in ice sheet modelling tends to confirm that the Pine Island and Thwaites Glacier flowing into the Amundsen Sea might be engaged in a self-sustained retreat. This might possibly initiate a massive collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on centennial to millennial time scales. However, further modeling efforts need to better constrain the threshold for this retreat and subsequent rate of mass loss. The authors further highlight the fact that these tipping elements can interact with each other, leading to synergies that can lead to cascading tipping points. They emphasize that research on such cascading events remains very limited at the moment. Better understanding, evaluating the proximity to crucial thresholds using process-based understanding of each system, remains a key aspect to be developed.
In the ongoing TiPACCs project, we specifically aim to enhance understanding of the thresholds in the Antarctic ice sheet – ocean system.
Link to the paper: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10712-020-09604-6