graphicAn issue that for years received only passing attention, even in many professional circles, abrupt climate change and potential impacts on at-risk ecosystems is getting more attention in the scientific sphere.

You may be hearing more and more about the concept of “abrupt climate change.”

Abrupt climate change — a term and issue not often discussed even among many climatologists just a few years ago — is getting increased attention, in part stemming from a recent National Research Council report on the issue.

It’s the focus of independent videographer Peter Sinclair’s new Yale Forum video. With sound-bites from 10 different climate researchers, the video underscores that even “normal” climate change can lead to “abrupt” adverse impacts on ecosystems, as when long-term sea-level rise leads to a surge’s breaching levees which, were it not for the sea-level rise, could have withstood the surge.

And with some ecosystems at risk of being stressed beyond their acceptable thresholds, “you can push something very gradually, and suddenly it hits stuff that we care about,” Penn State researcher Richard Alley told Sinclair.

“With climate change, storms that technically aren’t major hurricanes are causing major hurricane damages,” again in part because of rising sea levels, meteorologist Scott Mandia says in the video.

Another expert cautions in the video that the impacts can be analogous to “potentially losing the base of a pyramid,” with resulting dire implications for species well up the food chain. And for another mental image some might find difficult to black-out, UCLA Professor Aradhna Tripati cautions that “the climate system is a pretty dangerous beast, so you don’t want to poke the sleeping dragon.”

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