European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Tipping Points in the Earth System

Project description

Models of prediction for Earth system's tipping points

The Earth has gone through abrupt transitions through its history, but the underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood, nor can current models simulate past abrupt transitions realistically. The TiPES project will focus on the urgent need to examine the tipping points at which subsystems of the Earth have changed, improve the modelling of abrupt transitions better, and provide an estimate of stability of desirable states. TiPES will therefore contribute to better prediction of possible future abrupt changes caused by anthropogenic global warming, clarify what crossing the tipping points means socioeconomically, and help policymakers plan strategies to create safe operating spaces for humanity.


There is rising concern that several subsystems of the Earth may respond highly nonlinearly at critical future levels of anthropogenic forcing; these levels have recently been associated with tipping points (TPs). It is paramount to identify safe operating spaces for humanity and the planet in terms of these critical forcing levels, in order to prevent harmful transitions to alternative, undesirable states of the Earth system. The mechanisms leading to such abrupt transitions are only partly understood, and further research in this regard is urgently needed. State-of-art Earth System Models appear to respond too smoothly at TPs and have difficulties in simulating abrupt transitions that occurred in the planet’s history. TiPES will address these problems from several angles: 1. The project will identify subsystems that may exhibit abrupt transitions, and couplings between them, by focussing on paleoclimatic records and abrupt transitions therein. Novel methods to detect Early Warning Signals of forthcoming TPs, and to make skilful predictions on their basis, will be developed. 2. The potential shortcomings of models in representing TPs will be evaluated; in particular, TiPES will investigate how Bayesian calibration techniques can help enable these models to simulate past abrupt transitions. 3. TiPES will develop a generalized theory of climate sensitivity that accounts for the presence of TPs and feedbacks across various time scales. 4. To define safe operating spaces. TiPES will focus on dynamical system theory and on global stability notions for non-autonomous systems in order to estimate the stability of desirable states. 5. The results obtained by the project will be communicated to policy makers in a manner that facilitates decisions and their implementation. TiPES will develop formal approaches to define the socioeconomic risks of crossing TPs, and to derive decision strategies to keep anthropogenic forcing below levels where abrupt transitions may occur.

Call for proposal


See other projects for this call

Sub call



Net EU contribution
€ 1 585 843,75
1165 Kobenhavn

See on map

Danmark Hovedstaden Byen København
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 585 843,75

Participants (19)