"The Discovery of Rapid Climate Change," an article archived on the Physics Today site, takes you through a succinct history of how scientists came to realize that climate change can, in fact, proceed rapidly, that is, within a decade or two. As the article points out, the evidence for such rapid changes has been long available, and its meaning has been correctly interpreted by many scientists. But, it took a particular kind of evidence to bring about a paradigm shift among climatologists. Because so much of the work of climatologists rests on the notion that climate changes take place over long periods, at least centuries and more likely millennia, much of the work available today may be underestimating the possibility of rapid climate change. Thus, as one government report rather understatedly concludes, "climate surprises are to be expected."
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