Scheffer2009 - Early-warning signals for critical transitions

  • Type:#article
  • Date read: 2022-12-15
  • Subject: (in brackets, can also bracket keywords in text)
  • Bibtex: @scheffer2009
  • Bibliography: Scheffer, M., Bascompte, J., Brock, W. A., Brovkin, V., Carpenter, S. R., Dakos, V., Held, H., van Nes, E. H., Rietkerk, M., & Sugihara, G. (2009). Early-warning signals for critical transitions. Nature, 461(7260), Article 7260.

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Key takeaways

  • Critical slowing down can be used to understand how close the system is to a Tipping point
  • Hours before epileptic seizures, small seizures (unnoticeable to the patient) can occur in smaller regions of the brain.

This resembles patterns of flickering in which smaller transient excursions to the vicinity of an alternative state precede the upcoming major shift.

  • How can these predictions fail?
    • There can be another extreme rare event that triggers a transition
    • Fast and permanent change of external conditions
    • False positives: early-warning sign by chance or confounder within the system or external factors

In conclusion, most early-warning signals are indicators of proximity to a broad class of thresholds, where small forces can cause major changes in the state of a complex system.

Thus, although a trend in the indicators may serve as a warning, the actual moment of a transition remains difficult to predict. A key issue when it comes to practical application is the question of whether a signal can be detected sufficiently early for action to be taken to prevent a transition or to prepare for one.