Earth's Climate May 'tip' Without Warning

DAVIE, Calif., Feb. 10 (UPI) — A U.S. scientist says the Earth’s climate’s “tipping point” — when climate change becomes an irreparable global disaster — might occur without warning.

University of California-Davis Professor Alan Hastings says experts are finding it harder than they anticipated to predict when sudden shifts in Earth’s natural systems will occur — a worrisome finding for scientists trying to identify climate tipping points.

“Many scientists are looking for the warning signs that herald sudden changes in natural systems in hopes of forestalling those changes, or improving our preparations for them,” said Hastings, a theoretical ecologist. “Our new study found, unfortunately, that regime shifts with potentially large consequences can happen without warning — systems can ‘tip’ precipitously.

“This means that some effects of global climate change on ecosystems can be seen only once the effects are dramatic. By that point returning the system to a desirable state will be difficult, if not impossible.”

Hastings and co-author Derin Wysham, a former UC-Davis postdoctoral researcher and now a scientist at the John Innes Center in Norwich, England, report their findings in the online early edition of the journal Ecology Letters.

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