Related Resource

Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises (January 2002)

Report in Brief

The climate record for the past 100,000 years clearly indicates that the climate system has undergone periodic--and often extreme--shifts, sometimes in as little as a decade or less. The causes of abrupt climate changes have not been clearly established, but the triggering of events is likely to be the result of multiple natural processes. This report looks at the current scientific evidence and theoretical understanding to describe what is currently known about abrupt climate change, including patterns and magnitudes, mechanisms, and probability of occurrence. It identifies critical knowledge gaps concerning the potential for future abrupt changes (including those aspects of change most important to society and economies), outlines a research strategy to close those gaps, surveys the history of climate change, and makes a series of specific recommendations for the future.