Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
.Also discussed were ocean circulation, polar icecaps, Amazon rainforests, seafloor methane deposits and a west African dustbowl. Each is stressed by rising planetarytemperatures. Some are less likely than others to tip; some might not be able to tip at all.Ambiguities, probabilities a limited grasp of Earth’s complex systems are inherent to thescience. But if any tip, it will be an epic disaster.Wired Science takes you on a tour.
Image: Earth’s Eastern and Western Hemispheres/NASA
Polar Sea Ice
Dwindling Arctic sea ice and crumbling Antarctic ice sheets are now a common sight.Whether they signal an impending tip, with rapid melts causing Earth’s seas to inundateheavily-populated coastal plains, is debated.The process appears to accelerate itself: Warming ice melts, which exposes darker areas,causing local temperatures to rise further. But in the Arctic, another feedback may