Volcano eruption is certainly one, but which are other possible global surprises? In 1994, the Aspen Global Change Institute organized a two week workshop on global environmental surprise. The results from this workshop can be found in Stephen H. Schneider and colleagues 1998 article “Imaginable surprise in global change science” (Journal of Risk Research, 1(2)). By “imaginable surprise”, they mean
The event, process, or outcome departs from the expectations of the observing community or those affected by the event or process. Seen from this point of view, surprise abou t one or another aspect of climate change is an after-the-fact reaction to an observation or new scientific finding that, in some sense, lies outside our range of expectations.
In the list of 40+ types of surprises, you find not only volcano eruption, but also, just to mention a few:
- A reduction in ‘conveyor belt’ oceanic overturning leading to cooling at high latitudes occurs, despite general (but slower) global warming.
- Heat stored in the ocean at intermediate depths is released to the atmosphere, leading to rapid warming.
- Dimethyl sulfide emissions decline with reduced sea ice, causing cloud brightness to decrease and warming to accelerate.
- Dimethyl sulfide emissions change with sea-surface temperature change.
- Synergism of habitat fragmentation, artificial chemicals, introduction of exotic species and anthropogenic climate change affect ecosystems in unforeseen ways that reduce biodiversity.
- Geo-engineering is practised intermittently by only a few nations causing international political conflicts and greater environmental instability.
Don’t say you weren’t warned….