PerspectiveClimate Change

What Drives Climate Flip-Flops?

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Science  17 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5938, pp. 273-274
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177159

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The threat of rapid climate change concerns politicians and climate scientists alike. To assess whether abrupt transitions in the climate system are likely to occur in coming decades and centuries, an in-depth understanding of the conditions that led to past abrupt climate changes is required. On page 310 of this issue, Liu et al. (1) use a state-of-the-art general circulation model to investigate a poster child for dramatic climate events in recent Earth history: the Bølling-Allerød transition (see the figure). The results suggest that this transition can be simulated simply as the North Atlantic climate response to a rapidly ceasing glacial meltwater flow.