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2/05/2008

"Tipping point" on horizon for Greenland ice

Breaking Earth News
Image:
A fishing boat sails past a large iceberg at the mouth of the Jakobshavns ice fjord near Ilulissat in this photo taken May 15, 2007. Global warming this century could trigger a runaway thaw of Greenland's ice sheet and other abrupt shifts such as a dieback of the Amazon rainforest, scientists said on Monday. REUTERS/Bob Strong

OSLO (Reuters) - Global warming this century could trigger a runaway thaw of Greenland's ice sheet and other abrupt shifts such as a dieback of the Amazon rainforest, scientists said on Monday.

They urged governments to be more aware of "tipping points" in nature, tiny shifts that can bring big and almost always damaging changes such as a melt of Arctic summer sea ice or a collapse of the Indian monsoon.

"Society may be lulled into a false sense of security by smooth projections of global change," the scientists at British, German and U.S. institutes wrote in a report saying there were many little-understood thresholds in nature.

"The greatest and clearest threat is to the Arctic with summer sea ice loss likely to occur long before, and potentially contribute to, Greenland ice sheet melt," they wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Tipping elements in the tropics, the boreal zone, and west Antarctica are surrounded by large uncertainty," they wrote, pointing to more potential abrupt shifts than seen in a 2007 report by the U.N. Climate Panel.

A projected drying of the Amazon basin, linked both to logging and to global warming, could set off a dieback of the rainforest.

"Many of these tipping points could be closer than we thought," lead author Timothy Lenton, of the University of East Anglia in England, told Reuters of the study.
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