Skip to main content

Explore Our Science

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating surprises

Abrupt change is a hallmark of the climate record. It has happened in the past, and is already happening in some systems now.

Abrupt climate change—large shifts in climate that take place within decades or even years—is the topic of increasing concern because of the potential for such changes to happen faster than society or ecosystems could adapt. A new report from the National Research Council evaluates the potential for abrupt changes in the ocean, atmosphere, ecosystems, and high latitude regions to help decision makers and communities make informed decisions about how to prepare for sudden changes. The report calls for an early warning system to help society better anticipate abrupt changes.

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change. James White outlines how abrupt climate change happens and the findings of the report, in this 4 min. video from the National Academies of Science.

James White draws from the Abrupt Impacts report in the AGU Nye Lecture, Dec. 2014, "Abrupt Climate Change—Past, Present, and Future: The Hard Reality and Silver Lining in a Sustainable Future."

Photos & Videos

Related Research

Related People