01 Aug 2023
 | 01 Aug 2023

Climate tipping point interactions and cascades: A review

Nico Wunderling, Anna von der Heydt, Yevgeny Aksenov, Stephen Barker, Robbin Bastiaansen, Victor Brovkin, Maura Brunetti, Victor Couplet, Thomas Kleinen, Caroline H. Lear, Johannes Lohmann, Rosa Maria Roman-Cuesta, Sacha Sinet, Didier Swingedouw, Ricarda Winkelmann, Pallavi Anand, Jonathan Barichivich, Sebastian Bathiany, Mara Baudena, John T. Bruun, Christiano M. Chiessi, Helen K. Coxall, David Docquier, Jonathan F. Donges, Swinda K. J. Falkena, Ann Kristin Klose, David Obura, Juan Rocha, Stefanie Rynders, Norman Julius Steinert, and Matteo Willeit

Abstract. Climate tipping elements are large-scale subsystems of the Earth that may transgress critical thresholds (tipping points) under ongoing global warming, with substantial impacts on biosphere and human societies. Frequently studied examples of such tipping elements include the Greenland Ice Sheet, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, permafrost, monsoon systems, and the Amazon rainforest. While recent scientific efforts have improved our knowledge about individual tipping elements, the interactions between them are less well understood. Also, the potential of individual tipping events to induce additional tipping elsewhere, or stabilize other tipping elements is largely unknown. Here, we map out the current state of the literature on the interactions between climate tipping elements and review the influences between them. To do so, we gathered evidence from model simulations, observations and conceptual understanding, as well as archetypal examples of paleoclimate reconstructions where multi-component or spatially propagating transitions were potentially at play. Lastly, we identify crucial knowledge gaps in tipping element interactions and outline how future research could address those gaps.

Nico Wunderling et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1576', Steven Lade, 30 Aug 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1576', Anonymous Referee #2, 31 Aug 2023
  • RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1576', B. van der Bolt, 06 Sep 2023
  • RC4: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1576', Anonymous Referee #4, 12 Sep 2023

Nico Wunderling et al.

Nico Wunderling et al.


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Short summary
This paper reviews the state-of-the-art literature on interactions between tipping elements and discusses the risk of potential tipping cascades under ongoing global warming. Specifically, we review the current knowledge on interactions between pairs of tipping elements from models to observations, review archetypal examples of tipping cascades in the past, and outline how future developments could improve our understanding of climate tipping element interactions.