• From clouds to carbon:
    land-atmosphere interactions
    in the spotlight


    Understanding the interface between the land and the atmosphere has been an important component of IGBP’s research. Here we highlight three recent contributions that resulted from research sponsored by the Integrated Land Ecosystem–Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS).

  • Coastal megacities:
    risks and opportunities


    Every year, more and more people are flocking to live near the sea’s edge, often congregating in massive cities. Sophie Blackburn and Mark Pelling explore what happens when urban and coastal zones collide.

Earth as a complex system

Earth behaves as a complex system. Complex systems can respond abruptly to changes within the system - these abrupts changes can be highly non-linear. There is strong evidence that the Earth system is prone to such abrupt changes.
Human-induced global change has pushed the Earth system into a no-analogue state — where climatic and other environmental conditions are outside of the range of the last half million years (at least), increasing the likelihood of unpredictable changes with potentially harmful consequences.
 
Exploring and quantifying Earth system interactions is therefore extremely important.
 
The Earth system perspective demands a new scientific approach and innovative conceptual and technical tools. Separate Earth system components, properties and processes — such as the composition and circulation pattern of the atmosphere — still need to be investigated, but should be studied as integral parts of a system, so as to understand their interactions and feedbacks.
 
Furthermore, in the era of global change, humanity must also be considered a part of the Earth system. Indeed, IGBP includes the human social, cultural and economic systems as within the Earth system.
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