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The CriticalEarth training network will aim to better understand tipping points in the Earth’s climate and identify thresholds beyond which irreversible changes would occur.

Pioneering collaborative research project helps enhance understanding of climate tipping points

Mathematicians from the University of Exeter will play a pivotal role in a new collaborative research project to help enhance our understanding of climate tipping points.

The pioneering European-wide collaborative project, called CriticalEarth, has received €4.1m in awarded European Commission funding – among 147 Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) to received funding as part of the scheme.

The project, for which Exeter will receive €600,000, will provide research training opportunities for early stage researchers hosted at the University to investigate the crucial global climate issues.

The CriticalEarth training network will aim to better understand tipping points in the Earth’s climate and identify thresholds beyond which irreversible changes would occur.

It will be training a new cohort of young scientists with the full range of cross-disciplinary skills needed better understand, predict and avoid damaging climate change.

The project is led by the University of Copenhagen and involves additional beneficiaries at Reading, Utrecht, Lyon, Tromsø, Madrid, Munich, Berlin, Oldenburg, Brussels and Rome.

Professor Peter Ashwin, Principal Investigator for the project at Exeter said: “Understanding the climate is an immensely complex challenge that calls on research expertise from a wide range of disciplines. Mathematics provides a crucial way for these disciplines to talk with each other.”

The project is a partner training network for another European-wide research project led from Copenhagen, called Tipping Points in the Earth System (TiPES), which was last year awarded €8 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program.

The four-year project is designed to advance current understanding and identify tipping point thresholds - or events that could ‘tip’ the Earth’s climate into a new state. Professor Ashwin, Principal Investigator for the project at Exeter, is working on a range of novel theoretical tools needed to understand the nonlinear dynamics of climate change tipping points. In particular it will look at modelling thresholds in the Earth’s climate and how the pace and variability of change may affect these thresholds.

These will help scientists detect early warning signals for impending tipping events, as well as make more accurate predictions on their effect on the Earth’s climate.

Date: 12 October 2020

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