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Confronting the Bogeyman of the Climate System

Science Magazine
Friday, October 21, 2005
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In recent years, the topic of abrupt climate change has risen to a place of prominence in both scientific and popular discourse. The subject of abrupt climate change was addressed at a meeting held at the Aspen Global Change Institute in 2005, and the proceedings of that meeting are summarized in this article. In short, the concern among scientists is that melting freshwater could drastically impact ocean circulation, leading to an abrupt change in global climate. Such an event is believed to have occurred in the last ice age when the world may have experienced up to a 10 degree shift in temperature. However, during the AGCI meeting scientists reported on the results of climate model runs that suggest that major disruption of ocean currents is not an anticipated outcome of global warming. The general consensus of scientists by the end of the meeting was that too much focus on abrupt climate change may serve as a dangerous distraction from addressing the more realistic concerns of climate change such as sea level rise.

Tags: 
  • abrupt change
  • climate change
  • oceans

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