Climate Dynamics

, Volume 37, Issue 11–12, pp 2437–2453 | Cite as

Changing climate states and stability: from Pliocene to present

  • V. N. LivinaEmail author
  • F. Kwasniok
  • G. Lohmann
  • J. W. Kantelhardt
  • T. M. Lenton


We present a recently developed method of potential analysis of time series data, which comprises (1) derivation of the number of distinct global states of a system from time series data, and (2) derivation of the potential coefficients describing the location and stability of these states, using the unscented Kalman filter (UKF). We test the method on artificial data and then apply it to climate records spanning progressively shorter time periods from 5.3 Myr ago to the recent observational record. We detect various changes in the number and stability of states in the climate system. The onset of Northern Hemisphere glaciation roughly 3 Myr BP is detected as the appearance of a second climate state. During the last ice age in Greenland, there is a bifurcation representing the loss of stability of the warm interstadial state, followed by the total loss of this state around 25 kyr BP. The Holocene is generally characterized by a single stable climate state, especially at large scales. However, in the historical record, at the regional scale, the European monthly temperature anomaly temporarily exhibits a second, highly degenerate (unstable) state during the latter half of the eighteenth century. At the global scale, temperature is currently undergoing a forced movement of a single stable state rather than a bifurcation. The method can be applied to a wide range of geophysical systems with time series of sufficient length and temporal resolution, to look for bifurcations and their precursors.


Potential analysis Bifurcations Time series analysis Climate states 



The research was supported by NERC through the project “Detecting and classifying bifurcations in the climate system” (NE/F005474/1) and by AXA Research Fund through a postdoctoral fellowship for VNL. We acknowledge the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology and NOAA/NGDC Paleoclimatology Program (Boulder CO, USA) and Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen for providing paleodata in their internet websites. We are grateful to J. Luterbacher for providing the record of the historical reconstruction of the European temperature anomaly.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. N. Livina
    • 1
    Email author
  • F. Kwasniok
    • 2
  • G. Lohmann
    • 3
  • J. W. Kantelhardt
    • 4
  • T. M. Lenton
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical SciencesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  3. 3.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Physics, Theory groupMartin-Luther-Universität Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany

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