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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellows' Seminar - Abrupt Climate Change: What is abrupt? How fast is fast?

6th February 2017, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Jack Williams (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)

A common trope in discussions about contemporary climate change is that the expected rates of 21st-century climate change are abrupt and faster than anything in the past. Is this true? This seemingly simple question quickly requires diving into questions of scale. What do we mean by abrupt, and should our definition be scale-neutral or scale-specific? Does our answer depend on whether we look at mean global temperature changes or regionally, given e.g. the remarkably rapid climate changes in the North Atlantic and western Europe during the last deglaciation? How well can we characterize past abrupt rates of change, given geological sampling protocols that might have a temporal resolution anywhere from 100 to 106 years between samples? These scale-dependent answers matter to ecologists seeking to conserve species biodiversity and ecosystem function in a rapidly changing world, for they inform our understanding of whether, from a species perspective, current rates of change are anomalous or merely another instance of rapid change in an ever-dynamic world.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact for more information about this event.