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Recasting the Climate Debate: Feedbacks That Set the Timescale for Irreversible Change Dissected With New Laser and Optical Technology

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The key irrefutable evidence for irreversible change in the Earth’s climate structure lies in the high Arctic. This observed loss of ice volume from the Arctic Ocean, displayed in Figure 1, is of critical importance from at least two perspectives. First, it represents a profound, irreversible change that cannot be denied and because of the potent feedbacks accelerating further loss of ice, there is no known mechanism for reversing the flow of heat into the ice system on timescales relevant for societal response. Second, the loss of the cold, icebound Arctic represents the trigger for a cascade of feedbacks that couple the loss of Arctic ice to a sequence of important changes to the global climate structure as displayed in Figure 2. Casting these feedbacks in the context of irreversible climate change will be addressed in the presentation, as will new experimental strategies employing developments in laser and optical systems for investigating the mechanisms that determine the time scales for irreversible change.

© 2014 Optical Society of America

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