Scientist studying the earth climate have a long history of working with complex models. Some of these models include critical transitions. Examples of this work are:

Analysis of climate history as well as detailed simulation models suggests that the climate system has several tipping elements, that may go through critical transitions individually or in concert. Examples are the sea-ice, monsoon systems and the thermo-haline circulation.

We work with Tim Lenton, Victor Brovkin and others on ways to infer the stability properties of such tipping elements from a combination of models and data.

Selected key references

Slowing down as an early warning signal for abrupt climate change
Dakos, V., Scheffer, M., van Nes, E.H., Brovkin, V., Petoukhov, V. & Held, H. (2008)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105 (38):14308–14312 [full text][full text]

Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene
Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T.M., Folke, C., Liverman, D., Summerhayes, C.P., Barnosky, A.D., Cornell, S.E. & Crucifix, M. (2018)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115 (33):8252-8259 [full text][full text]

Early warning of climate tipping points
Lenton, T.M. (2011)
Nature Climate Change 1 (4):201-209 [full text]

A safe operating space for humanity
Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Ã., Chapin, F.S., Lambin, E.F., Lenton, T.M., Scheffer, M., Folke, C., Schellnhuber, H.J., Nykvist, B., De Wit, C.A., Hughes, T., Van Der Leeuw, S., Rodhe, H., Sörlin, S., Snyder, P.K., Costanza, R., Svedin, U., Falkenmark, M., Karlberg, L., Corell, R.W., Fabry, V.J., Hansen, J., Walker, B., Liverman, D., Richardson, K., Crutzen, P. & Foley, J.A. (2009)
Nature 461 (7263):472-475 [full text][full text]

Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system
Lenton, T.M., Held, H., Kriegler, E., Hall, J.W., Lucht, W., Rahmstorf, S. & Schellnhuber, H.S. (2008)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 105 (6):1786-1793 [full text]

While the climate affects vegetation, the reverse is also true. In some parts of the world this effect may be large enough to create positive feedback loops that lead to alternative stable states. Likely examples include the western Sahara and parts of the Amazon. At the same time small scale feedbacks can create local alternative stable states in vegetation.

We work with Victor Brovkin, Max Rietkerk and others on understanding how the interaction of such feedbacks at different scales affect the overall stability properties of the system.

Selected key references

Synergy between small- and large-scale feedbacks of vegetation on the water cycle
Scheffer, M., Holmgren, M., Brovkin, V. & Claussen, M. (2005)
Global Change Biology 11 (7):1003-1012 [full text][full text]

Forest-rainfall cascades buffer against drought across the Amazon
Staal, A., Tuinenburg, O.A., Bosmans, J.H.C., Holmgren, M., Van Nes, E.H., Scheffer, M., Zemp, D.C. & Dekker, S.C. (2018)
Nature Climate Change 8 (6):539-543 [full text]

Local ecosystem feedbacks and critical transitions in the climate
Rietkerk, M., Brovkin, V., Van Bodegom, P.M., Claussen, M., Dekker, S.C., Dijkstra, H.A., Goryachkin, S.V., Kabat, P., Van Nes, E.H., Neutel, A.M., Nicholson, S.E., Nobre, C., Petoukhov, V., Provenzale, A., Scheffer, M. & Seneviratne, S.I. (2009)
Biogeosciences Discussions 6 (5):10121-10136 [full text][full text]

Microscale vegetation-soil feedback boosts hysteresis in a regional vegetation-climate system
Janssen, R.H.H., Meinders, M.B.J., Van Nes, E.H. & Scheffer, M. (2008)
Global Change Biology 14 (5):1104-1112 [full text]

Art by Tone Kristin Bjordam

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