Nonlinear softening as a predictive precursor to climate tipping.
Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Approaching a dangerous bifurcation, from which a dynamical system such as the Earth's climate will jump (tip) to a different state, the current stable state lies within a shrinking basin of attraction. Persistence of the state becomes increasingly precarious in the presence of noisy disturbances. We argue that one needs to extract information about the nonlinear features (a 'softening') of the underlying potential from the time series to judge the probability and timing of tipping. This analysis is the logical next step if one has detected a decrease of the linear decay rate. If there is no discernible trend in the linear analysis, nonlinear softening is even more important in showing the proximity to tipping. After extensive normal-form calibration studies, we check two geological time series from palaeo-climate tipping events for softening of the underlying well. For the ending of the last ice age, where we find no convincing linear precursor, we identify a statistically significant nonlinear softening towards increasing temperature.
Copyright © 2012 The Royal Society
Vol. 370 (1962), pp. 1205 - 1227
Place of publication