Climatic Change

, Volume 110, Issue 3, pp 845–878

Potential climatic transitions with profound impact on Europe

Review of the current state of six ‘tipping elements of the climate system’


    • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
    • University of Potsdam
  • Jonathan L. Bamber
    • University of Bristol
  • Sybren Drijfhout
    • Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute
  • Andrey Ganopolski
    • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • Winfried Haeberli
    • University of Zurich
  • Neil R. P. Harris
    • European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit, Department of ChemistryCambridge University
  • Matthias Huss
    • University of Fribourg
  • Kirstin Krüger
    • Leibniz Institute for Marine Sciences
  • Timothy M. Lenton
    • College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Exeter
  • Ronald W. Lindsay
    • University of Washington
  • Dirk Notz
    • Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology
  • Peter Wadhams
    • Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical PhysicsCambridge University
  • Susanne Weber
    • Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0126-5

Cite this article as:
Levermann, A., Bamber, J.L., Drijfhout, S. et al. Climatic Change (2012) 110: 845. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0126-5


We discuss potential transitions of six climatic subsystems with large-scale impact on Europe, sometimes denoted as tipping elements. These are the ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica, the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, Arctic sea ice, Alpine glaciers and northern hemisphere stratospheric ozone. Each system is represented by co-authors actively publishing in the corresponding field. For each subsystem we summarize the mechanism of a potential transition in a warmer climate along with its impact on Europe and assess the likelihood for such a transition based on published scientific literature. As a summary, the ‘tipping’ potential for each system is provided as a function of global mean temperature increase which required some subjective interpretation of scientific facts by the authors and should be considered as a snapshot of our current understanding.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011