EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Cascade of abrupt transitions in past climates

Denis-Didier Rousseau1,2,3, Valerio Lucarini4,5, Witold Bagniewski6, and Michael Ghil6,7
Denis-Didier Rousseau et al.
  • 1University of Montpellier, Geosciences Montpellier, Montpellier, France (
  • 2Columbia University, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, New York, USA
  • 3Silesian University of Technology, Institute of Physics-CSE, Gliwice, Poland
  • 4University of Reading, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Reading, UK
  • 5University of Reading, Centre for the Mathematics of Planet Earth, Reading, UK
  • 6Ecole Normale Supérieure & PSL University, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Paris, France
  • 7University of California at Los Angeles, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Los Angeles, USA

The Earth’s climate has experienced numerous abrupt and critical transitions during its long history. Such transitions are evidenced in precise, high-resolution records at different timescales. This type of evidence suggests the possibility of identifying a hierarchy of past critical events, which would yield a more complex perspective on climatic history of the than the classical saddle-node two-dimension representation of tipping points. Such a context allows defining a tipping, or dynamical, landscape (Lucarini and Bódai, 2020), similar to the epigenetic landscape of Waddington (1957).

To illustrate a richer structure of critical transitions, we have analyzed 3 key high-resolution datasets covering the past 66 Ma and provided evidences of abrupt transitions detected with the augmented Kolmogorov-Smirnov test and a recurrence analysis (Bagniewski et al., 2021). These time series are the CENOGRID benthic d18O and d13C (Westerhold et al., 2020), the U1308 benthic d18O, d13C and the d18bulk carbonate (Hodell and Channell, 2016), and the NGRIP d18O (Rasmussen et al., 2014) records. The aim was to examine objectively the observed visual evidence of abrupt transitions and to identify among them the key thresholds indicating regime changes that differentiate among major clusters of variability. This identification is followed by establishing a hierarchy in the observed thresholds organized through a domino-like cascade of abrupt transitions that shaped the Earth’s climate system over the past 66 Ma.

This study is supported by the H2020-funded Tipping Points in the Earth System (TiPES) project.


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How to cite: Rousseau, D.-D., Lucarini, V., Bagniewski, W., and Ghil, M.: Cascade of abrupt transitions in past climates, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-2396,, 2022.