55 million years of climate change

June 27, 2011 , University of Bristol

State-of-the-art climate models, as used in the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, could be giving a false sense of security in terms of upcoming abrupt change, suggests a Commentary by a University of Bristol scientist published online this week in Nature Geoscience.

Professor Paul Valdes of the School of , discusses four examples of spanning the past 55 million years that have been reconstructed from palaeoclimate data.

In two of the cases, complex used in the assessments of future climate change did not adequately simulate the conditions before the onset of change.  In the other two cases, the models needed an unrealistically strong push to produce a change similar to that observed in records of past climate.

Professor Valdes concludes that state-of-the-art climate models may be systematically underestimating the potential for sudden climate change.

More information: 'Built for stability' by Paul Valdes in Nature Geoscience.

Provided by University of Bristol