EGU2020-14267, updated on 12 Jun 2020
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Data quality in different paleo archives and covering different time scales: a key issue in studying tipping elements.

Denis-Didier Rousseau1,2, Susanna Barbosa3, Witold Bagniewski1, Niklas Boers4, Eliza Cook5, Jens Fohlmeister4, Bedartha Goswami4, Norbert Marwan4, Sune Olander Rasmussen5, Louise Sime6, and Anders Svensson5
Denis-Didier Rousseau et al.
  • 1Ecole Normale Superieure, Dept. Geosciences, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Paris, France (
  • 2Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York, USA
  • 3INESC Technology and Science, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal
  • 4Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 5Physics of Ice, Climate and Earth (PICE), Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 6British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK

Although the Earth system is described to react relatively abruptly to present anthropogenic forcings, the notion of abruptness remains questionable as it refers to a time scale that is difficult to constrain properly. Recognizing this issue, the tipping elements as listed in Lenton et al. (2008) rely on long-term observations under controlled conditions, which enabled the associated tipping points to be identified. For example, there is evidence nowadays that if the rate of deforestation from forest fires and the climate change does not decrease, the Amazonian forest will reach a tipping point towards savanna (Nobre, 2019), which would impact the regional and global climate systems as well as various other ecosystems, directly or indirectly (Magalhães et al., 2020). However, if the present tipping elements, which are now evidenced, are mostly related to the present climate change and thus directly or indirectly related to anthropogenic forcing, their interpretation must still rely on former cases detected in the past, and especially from studies of abrupt climatic transitions evidenced in paleoclimate proxy records. Moreover, recent studies of past changes have shown that addressing abrupt transitions in the past raises the issue of data quality of individual records, including the precision of the time scale and the quantification of associated uncertainties. Investigating past abrupt transitions and the mechanisms involved requires the best data quality possible. This can be a serious limitation when considering the sparse spatial coverage of high resolution paleo-records where dating is critical and corresponding errors often challenging to control. In theory, this would therefore almost limit our investigations to ice-core records of the last climate cycle, because they offer the best possible time resolution. However, evidence shows that abrupt transitions can also be identified in deeper time with lower resolution records, but still revealing changes or transitions that have impacted the dynamics of the Earth system globally. TiPES Work Package 1 will address these issues and collect paleorecords permitting to evidence the temporal behavior of tipping elements in past climates, including several examples.

Lenton T. et al. (2008). PNAS 105, 1786-1793.

Nobre C. (2019). Nature 574, 455.

Magalhães N.d. et al. (2020). Sci. Rep. 16914 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53284-1

This work is performed under the TiPES project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement # 820970 <>

How to cite: Rousseau, D.-D., Barbosa, S., Bagniewski, W., Boers, N., Cook, E., Fohlmeister, J., Goswami, B., Marwan, N., Rasmussen, S. O., Sime, L., and Svensson, A.: Data quality in different paleo archives and covering different time scales: a key issue in studying tipping elements., EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-14267,, 2020

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Display material version 2 – uploaded on 03 May 2020
label error in GI-1 read GI-1e isntead of GI-1d
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-14267, Gerald M. Ganssen, 06 May 2020

    hi denis, good morning


    this is my first session I join!!!


    any presentation to look at?

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Denis-Didier Rousseau, 06 May 2020

      Hi Gerald,

      This session is very interesting because of the diversity of the presentations and their active discussion . It continues after the "coffee break" with a special guest  announced the lead convener, but I will have to leave for the session on ice-sheets where I am co-author of one presentation.

  • CC3: Comment on EGU2020-14267, Gerald M. Ganssen, 06 May 2020

    will not join further, cause I have a meeting with students


    take care all

    • AC2: Reply to CC3, Denis-Didier Rousseau, 06 May 2020

      OK fine have a great day

Display material version 1 – uploaded on 30 Apr 2020, no comments