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Discussion Series: Tipping elements, irreversibility, and abrupt change in the Earth system | Ice Sheets

Online meeting

AIMES, the Earth Commission Working Group 1 Earth and Human Systems Intercomparison Modelling Project (EHSMIP) under the Global Commons Alliance, and the Safe Landing Climates Lighthouse Activity of World Climate Research Program (WCRP) are organizing a discussion series that aims to advance the knowledge about tipping elements, irreversibility, and abrupt changes in the Earth system.

The discussion series is intended to support efforts to increase consistency in treatment of tipping elements in the scientific community, develop a research agenda, and design joint experiments and ideas for a Tipping Element Model Intercomparison Project (TipMip). The primary objective is to create an international science platform for the study of climatic, ecological and social tipping elements and their interactions in the Earth system.


Discussion Series: Tipping elements, irreversibility, and abrupt change in the Earth system | Ice Sheets

Note that this event was originally scheduled for November. If you signed up in November, there is no need to do so again.

25 January 2021: 16:00 – 17:30 CET


This event will focus on the ice sheets:

Introduction and moderation – Heiko Goelzer and Hannah Liddy (10min)
Projections from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets: insights from IPCC AR6 – Sophie Nowicki (20min)
Beyond gradual change: Tipping points in Greenland and Antarctica – Ricarda Winkelmann (20min)
Questions and discussion (20min)
The final 20min has been reserved for informal discussions on the research agenda and the development of a Tipping Element Model Intercomparison Project (TipMip).

The event will be recorded.

Speaker information

Sophie Nowicki, University of Buffalo
Dr. Sophie Nowicki is an Empire Innovation Professor in the Department of Geology and RENEW Faculty. Her research focusses on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, their connections to the Earth’s climate system and their impact on sea level. Her work is aligned with the RENEW Climate Change and Socioeconomic Impacts focus areas.

Through applied mathematics, remote sensing observations and numerical modeling, her work spans the spectrum of local processes, such as understanding the physics of ice sheet grounding lines, or the impact of bedrock topography on ice dynamics, to that of large-scale continental ice sheet models and their use in projections of sea level change. As sea level projections from ice sheet models require knowledge of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that drive ice sheet evolution, Dr. Nowicki is also interested in how to improve climate models in the polar regions, as well as the use of multiple models for projections.

Prior to joining UB, Dr. Nowicki was a Research Scientist and Deputy Chief for the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory (Code 615) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. While at NASA Goddard, Sophie was a science team member for Operation IceBridge, and co-lead the SeaRISE (Sea-Level Response to Ice Sheet Evolution), an international effort that investigated the sensitivity of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to external environmental forcings. She led many competed efforts such as an effort to couple ice sheet models to the two Goddard climate models (i.e., GEOS-5 and ModelE), and an effort that investigated the feedbacks, processes and impacts of contemporary changes in the Arctic using satellite observations, ice sheet and climate models.

Dr. Nowicki is a member of the NASA Sea Level Change Team (N-SLCT), a member of the SEARCH Land Ice Action Team (LIAT), an executive committee member for the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise phase 2 (IMBIE2), a member of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) and co-leads the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for CMIP6 (ISMIP6). She is the Division Head for Ice Sheets for the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS) and a member of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Sea Level Change and Coastal Impacts Chand Challenge. She was invited to be a lead author on the IPCC 6th Assessment Report Chapter on “Ocean, cryosphere, and sea level change”.

Dr. Nowicki holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Glaciology from University College London (UK), an MSc in Remote Sensing and Image Processing and a bachelor degree in Geophysics from The University of Edinburgh (UK). Over her time as a scientist, Dr. Nowicki has received numerous awards including that of NASA Cryospheric Sciences Most Valuable Player, awards for Outstanding Publications and Scientific Achievements. She is most proud of her mentoring award (the Robert Goddard Honor Award for Mentoring) which recognizes not only her work with postdocs and young scientists, but also the amazing work that they did.

Ricarda Winkelmann, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Prof. Winkelmann is a professor at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and University of Potsdam. She is Co-Chair of Working Group 1 of the Earth Commission and leads the TIP-MIP intercomparison project (that we will hear more about later). Trained as a mathematician and theoretical physicist in Germany and the United States, Winkelmann received her PhD with distinction from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and was a visiting researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford before returning to Germany as professor of Climate System Analysis. Ricarda has received numerous awards for her work, including being named Young Scientist of the Year by Academics and ZEIT Publishing Group. Her research at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research focuses on ice-dynamics in Greenland and Antarctica, future sea-level rise and tipping elements in the Earth System.

Organizing institutions

Analysis, Integration, and Modeling of the Earth System AIMES
The Analysis, Integration, and Modeling of the Earth System (AIMES) project is an international network of Earth system scientists and scholars that seek to develop innovative, interdisciplinary ways to understand the complexity of the natural world and its interactions with human activities.

Through international science coordination and partnerships, AIMES addresses questions beyond the remit of a single institution or discipline to understand the complex interactions between biogeochemistry, Earth system dynamics, and socio-economic conditions under global environmental change. This strategy requires a new level of coordination between disciplinary or process-focused modeling and observations in order to make progress in understanding, predicting, and managing the Earth as an integrated system. AIMES is a global research project of Future Earth.

Earth Commission
The Earth Commission is a global team of scientists with the mission to define a safe and just corridor for people and planet. Working Group 1 Earth and Human Systems Intercomparison Modelling Project (EHSMIP) of the Earth Commission will identify, assess and model key interactions that regulate the state of the planetary (i.e., the physical climate system, the cryosphere, oceans, terrestrial biosphere systems, cycles of water, nutrients and carbon), and human systems. This will inform setting targets for a stable and safe planet, and will help us in developing and understanding pathways that are compatible with these targets.

The scientific guardrails defined by the Earth Commission will guide the Science Based Targets Network in developing tangible science-based targets tailored to cities and companies. The Earth Commission is hosted by Future Earth, the world’s largest network of sustainability scientists, and is the scientific cornerstone of the Global Commons Alliance.

World Climate Research Program WCRP Safe Landing Climates
The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Safe Landing Climates Lighthouse Activity is an exploration of the routes to “safe landing” spaces for human and natural systems. It will explore future pathways that avoid dangerous climate change while at the same time contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those of climate action, zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, good health and well-being, affordable and clean energy, and healthy ecosystems above and below water. The relevant time scale is multi-decadal to millennial. This event is part of a WCRP Lighthouse Activity.