About the Group
As greenhouse gases increase, elements of the Earth's climate may transition, possibly irreversibly, to different states. Climate scientists have made an effort to identify certain key elements of the Earth system that are vulnerable to these transitions, the key physical parameters that drive the transitions, as well as their critical "tipping point" values. Examples include the complete loss of summer sea-ice in the Arctic, melting of the Greenland ice sheets, and the shutoff of North Atlantic deep water formation leading to a re-organization of Atlantic thermohaline circulation. While simple box models of these climate elements may capture these tipping points as bifurcations, the mechanisms behind abrupt transitions observed in global climate models are harder to identify. The goal of this focus group is to clarify some of the mathematical challenges associated with identifying and understanding the mechanisms of tipping points in Earth's climate.