What is it called when the effects of climate change increase the speed with which climate change occurs?

For example, this article ( http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2010/01/11_arctic_warming.shtml ) notes that as the arctic warms, trees will begin growing, and “Because trees are darker than the bare tundra, scientists previously have suggested that the northward expansion of trees might result in more absorption of sunlight and a consequent local warming.”



  1. 0 Votes

    Good question, hogan.  I think you are probably thinking of the “snowball” effect.  To use the metaphor, when a snowball rolls downhill, it gathers mass and speed, the bigger it gets, the more snow it is able to pick up so it gets bigger faster.  Here is an article that deals with the same issue as the one you cited, referring to the phenomena as “the snowball effect of global warming.”

    Hope this helps!

  2. 0 Votes

    In addition to “snowball” effect, as jeffb notes, you might be thinking of a “positive feedback loop“.

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    Feedback loops are a critical component to any system, including our climate. There are positive and negative feedback loops that regulate our climate. The melting permafrost, carbon release, temerpature increase example above is a good example of a positive feedback loop that accelerates climate change. An example of a negative feedback negative feedback loop that may potentially slow  the rate of climate change is that with higher temperatures, there will be higher rates of evaporation from the ocean, which lead to greater rainfall events, which lead to greater rates of rock weathering, which cause a faster rate of carbon dioxide drawdown into the ocean as rock minerals (such as calcium and magnesium) react with CO2 (forming calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate). 

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