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  • Irreversible sea-level rise, dramatic weather events after passing certain tipping points? And the Earths surface temperatures, how much will they rise if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is doubled? Current computer models fail in predicting these abrupt, potentially non-reversible changes. [Graphics: tipping elements in the Earth's climate system, based upon Lenton et al. (2008) (CodeOne (blank map), DeWikiMan (additional elements), CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)]

    Irreversible sea-level rise, dramatic weather events after passing certain tipping points? And the Earths surface temperatures, how much will they rise if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is doubled? Current computer models fail in predicting these abrupt, potentially non-reversible changes. [Graphics: tipping elements in the Earth's climate system, based upon Lenton et al. (2008) (CodeOne (blank map), DeWikiMan (additional elements), CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)]

Training the next generation of climate researchers

The Trans-European scientist training programme CriticalEarth is scheduled to start in March. At ICBM, the research group Theoretical Physics/Complex Systems, headed by Prof. Dr. Ulrike Feudel, participates in the international programme. It was initiated at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.
 

ICBM participates in collaborative research project to help enhance understanding of climate tipping points
The Trans-European scientist training programme CriticalEarth is scheduled to start in March. At ICBM, the research group Theoretical Physics/Complex Systems, headed by Prof. Dr. Ulrike Feudel, participates in the international programme. It was initiated at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

The application deadline for the PhD project at the ICBM ends on 7 March. The project will investigate, amongst others, why abrupt critical transitions at tipping points discovered for parts of the climate system often do not show up in large climate simulations, focusing on the question: what masks up these tipping points in computerised simulations. To what extent is this due to slowly varying driving forces of climate change, fluctuations of environmental variables or the spatial resolution of different processes in the climate system, limited by computer performance?

“The dynamics of the climate system are crucially shaped on the one hand by the interplay of differing time scales of the internal climate processes, on the other hand by changes of the external driving forces, partially caused by man. This is what we learned from preliminary investigations.”, Prof. Feudel says. "Rapid changes of environmental conditions may evoke an utterly unanticipated response of the climate system”, she adds. This could hamper species in ecosystems from adapting themselves to the new conditions. During slow changes, these adaptations could possibly contribute to preventing tipping events.

Against the backdrop of climate change, climate science is developing rapidly. Accordingly, there is an urgent need for skilled climate scientists with excellent insight into the ecology and physics of the Earth system as well as mathematical theories. Advanced mathematical approaches are more and more incorporated in the analysis of results from classical, dynamical computer simulations. To train the next generation of climate researchers adequately, Prof. Dr. Peter Ditlevsen at the Danish Niels Bohr Institute initiated the Trans-European project CriticalEarth. It is an Innovative Training Network funded for 3 years by the European Commission under the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions programme with more than 4 million Euros.

To expose 15 international PhD students to the innovative mathematical approaches essential in modern climate research, 17 European research institutions have joined together to form the CriticalEarth network. The young scientists will address two extremely pressing issues in climate research. On the one hand this will be the prevailing insufficiencies in modelling of tipping phenomena. Equally challenging is an issue on the other hand, as science currently does not offer an answer to the question on how much the Earth’s surface temperatures will rise if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is doubled.

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(Changed: 2021-04-30)