Feedback Dynamics

Underlying Conceptual Model


"The Feedback Crisis in Climate Change" highlighted the all-too-real possibility of runaway climate change, driven by the naturally occurring positive feedback loops of the biosphere. In-depth studies of specific issues and cycle-clusters have been surfacing for several years, but no clear over-view of the system as a whole is available. Computer modelling of the multi-dimensional set of non-linear interlinked phenomena, with its variety of time delays, damping effects, and second and third order processes, is notoriously difficult. It has more in common with the work on systems dynamics than with the complex cellular programmes normally used to model climate change.

The presentation of the conceptual model starts unashamedly by setting the whole earth system in its spatial context, followed by a basic overview of the dynamics of radiative forcing. The drivers of climate change are then assembled together with the categories of feedback mechanisms. Attention is drawn to the second order effects of the feedback system as a whole. The four major cycles of the system are then identified and the specific feedbacks noted in detail. The concluding section explores the possibility of bringing together an integrated ensemble of modelling platforms, capable of working seamlessly with global systems dynamics, differentiated delineation of local climate impacts, and insights from extreme events in paleo-climatology.