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Humans need to be wary of breaching a 'point of no return' that leads to ecological disaster such as loss of rainforests or irreversible climate change, according to the most detailed study of its kind.
The thin line separating the Earth's current climate from a frozen one – the so-called snowball state—has been explored in new research led by the University of Reading that combines mathematics with climate science.
Researchers - Events - Action - Tipping - Point
Researchers analysed how random events and human action could combine to reach a tipping point, where one natural state transitions to a very different one.
The findings, published today in the journal Physical Review Letters, can be applied to the Earth's climate, landscape features or ecosystems like a rainforest to aid our understanding of how they can be altered or destroyed after reaching a point of no return.
Valerio - Lucarini - Professor - Statistical - Mechanics
Valerio Lucarini, Professor of Statistical Mechanics at the University of Reading and lead author of the study, said: "Changes in climate or catastrophic declines in natural features like forests all happen in a fashion similar to a journey in a mountain region. These states are like two valleys divided by a mountain pass, which must be crossed in order to move between them.
"Pinpointing this dividing line has allowed us to better understand when we are likely to see transitions in the natural world. This helps outline a safe operating space, enabling us to tailor our behaviour to remain within this and to realise when a transition could occur. Cutting down trees, damaging ecosystems or altering the climate could all cause us to stray too close to a tipping point, risking dramatic and irreversible change."
Research - Study - Nonlinearity
The new research builds on a previous (2017) study published in Nonlinearity by...
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