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      Early-warning signals for critical transitions

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          Abstract

          Complex dynamical systems, ranging from ecosystems to financial markets and the climate, can have tipping points at which a sudden shift to a contrasting dynamical regime may occur. Although predicting such critical points before they are reached is extremely difficult, work in different scientific fields is now suggesting the existence of generic early-warning signals that may indicate for a wide class of systems if a critical threshold is approaching.

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          Most cited references49

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          Metapopulation dynamics

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            High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650,000-800,000 years before present.

            Changes in past atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations can be determined by measuring the composition of air trapped in ice cores from Antarctica. So far, the Antarctic Vostok and EPICA Dome C ice cores have provided a composite record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the past 650,000 years. Here we present results of the lowest 200 m of the Dome C ice core, extending the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by two complete glacial cycles to 800,000 yr before present. From previously published data and the present work, we find that atmospheric carbon dioxide is strongly correlated with Antarctic temperature throughout eight glacial cycles but with significantly lower concentrations between 650,000 and 750,000 yr before present. Carbon dioxide levels are below 180 parts per million by volume (p.p.m.v.) for a period of 3,000 yr during Marine Isotope Stage 16, possibly reflecting more pronounced oceanic carbon storage. We report the lowest carbon dioxide concentration measured in an ice core, which extends the pre-industrial range of carbon dioxide concentrations during the late Quaternary by about 10 p.p.m.v. to 172-300 p.p.m.v.
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              Thresholds and breakpoints in ecosystems with a multiplicity of stable states

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                September 2009
                September 2009
                : 461
                : 7260
                : 53-59
                Article
                10.1038/nature08227
                19727193
                ed2abea3-6757-420f-b883-2645d6b35511
                © 2009

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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