People don’t just do Earth warmer, they make the climate chaotic, a new study suggests.
The new study, published in the preprint database on April 21 arXiv (opens in new tab), paints a broad and general picture of the full potential impacts of human activities on climate. And the picture is not pretty.
Although the study is not a complete simulation of a climate model, it does paint a rough sketch of where we’re going if we don’t constrain climate change and our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels, according to the study authors, scientists from the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Porto in Portugal. .
“The effects of climate change are well known (droughts, heat waves, extreme phenomena, etc.),” study researcher Orfeu Bertolami told Live Science in an email. “If the Earth system gets into the realm of chaotic behavior, we will lose all hope of solving the problem in any way.”
Related: It’s ‘now or never’ to stop climate catastrophe, say UN scientists
The Earth periodically experiences massive changes in climate patterns, transitioning from one stable equilibrium to another. These shifts are usually driven by external factors such as changes in Earth’s orbit or a massive increase in volcanic activity. However, previous research suggests that we are now entering a new phase driven by human activity. When people pump more carbon into the atmosphere, we are creating a new Anthropocene, a period of man-made climate systems, something our planet has never experienced before.
In the new study, the researchers modeled the introduction of the Anthropocene as a phase transition. Most people are familiar with phase transitions in materials, for example when an ice cube changes phase from solid to liquid by melting into water, or when water evaporates into gas. However, phase transitions also occur in other systems. In this case, the system is the Earth’s climate. A given climate ensures regularity and predictability seasons and weather, and a phase transition in climate is leading to a new season and weather pattern. When the climate goes through a phase transition, it means that the Earth is experiencing a sudden and rapid change in patterns.
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When human activities are driving a phase transition in Earth’s climate, it means we are causing the planet to evolve a new set of weather patterns. What these patterns will look like is one of the most pressing problems in climate science.
Where is the Earth’s climate headed? That depends to a large extent on how exactly we become active in the coming decades. A drastic reduction in CO2 emissions, for example, would lead to different results than changing nothing at all, the researchers write in the study.
To account for the different paths and choices humanity might make, the researchers used a mathematically Tool called Logistic Map. The logistic map is great for describing situations where a variable – like the amount of carbon in the atmosphere – can increase but naturally reaches a limit. For example, scientists often use the logistic map to describe animal populations: animals can continue to give birth and increase their numbers, but they will reach a limit when they use up all the food around them (or their predators get too hungry and eat them).
Related: The 5 Mass Extinctions That Shaped Earth’s History
Our impact on the environment is definitely growing, and has been for over a century. But according to the researchers, there will of course be a limit. For example, human populations can only grow so large and have only so many carbon-emitting activities; and pollution will eventually deteriorate the environment. At some point in the future, carbon emissions will reach a maximum limit, and the researchers found that a logistic map is very good at capturing the future trajectory of these carbon emissions.
Everything is chaos
The researchers examined different ways the human logistic map might evolve, depending on a variety of factors such as our population, the adoption of carbon reduction strategies, and better, more efficient technologies. After figuring out how human carbon emissions would evolve over time, they used this to study how Earth’s climate would evolve as a result of the human-caused phase transition.
As soon as humanity reaches the limit of carbon emissions, the earth’s climate will, at best, stabilize at a new, higher average temperature. This higher temperature is overall bad for humans as it still results in higher sea levels and more extreme weather events. But at least it’s stable: The Anthropocene looks like previous climate ages, only warmer, and there will still be regular and repeatable weather patterns.
But at worst, the researchers found, Earth’s climate leads to chaos. True mathematical chaos. In a chaotic system there is no balance and no repeatable patterns. A chaotic climate would have seasons that vary greatly from decade to decade (or even year to year). Some years have seen sudden weather extremes, while others have been completely calm. Even the Earth’s average temperature can vary widely, swinging from cooler to hotter periods in relatively short periods of time. It would be completely impossible to determine in which direction the Earth’s climate is moving.
“Chaotic behavior means that even if we know with a high degree of certainty its current state, it will be impossible to predict how the Earth system will behave in the future,” Bertolami said. “It will mean losing any ability to control the Earth system and propel it towards a state of equilibrium that favors biosphere habitability.”
Most worryingly, the researchers found that above a certain critical threshold temperature for the Earth’s atmosphere, a feedback cycle can occur where a chaotic outcome becomes inevitable. There are some signs that we may already have passed this tipping point, but it is not too late to avert climate catastrophe.
Originally published on Live Science.
Physicists predict Earth will become a chaotic world, with dire consequences Source link Physicists predict Earth will become a chaotic world, with dire consequences
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