Rate-induced tipping cascades arising from interactions between the Greenland Ice Sheet and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

Klose, Ann Kristin; Donges, Jonathan F.; Feudel, Ulrike; Winkelmann, Ricarda

The Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) are considered tipping elements in the climate system, where global warming exceeding critical threshold levels in forcing can lead to large-scale and nonlinear reductions in ice volume and overturning strength, respectively. The positive–negative feedback loop governing their interaction with a destabilizing effect on the AMOC due to ice loss and subsequent freshwater flux into the North Atlantic as well as a stabilizing effect of a net cooling around Greenland with an AMOC weakening may determine the long-term stability of both tipping elements. Here we explore the potential dynamic regimes arising from this positive–negative tipping feedback loop in a physically motivated conceptual model. Under idealized forcing scenarios we identify conditions under which different kinds of tipping cascades can occur: herein, we distinguish between overshoot/bifurcation tipping cascades, leading to tipping of both GIS and AMOC, and rate-induced tipping cascades, where the AMOC, despite not having crossed its own intrinsic tipping point, tips nonetheless due to the fast rate of ice loss from Greenland. The occurrence of these different cascades is affected by the ice sheet disintegration time and thus eventually by the imposed forcing and its timescales. Our results suggest that it is necessary not only to avoid surpassing the respective critical levels of the environmental drivers for the Greenland Ice Sheet and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, but also to respect safe rates of environmental change to mitigate potential domino effects.

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Klose, Ann Kristin / Donges, Jonathan F. / Feudel, Ulrike / et al: Rate-induced tipping cascades arising from interactions between the Greenland Ice Sheet and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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