Geophysikalisches Kolloquium: Early warning signals for critical transitions

It is becoming increasingly clear that many complex systems have critical thresholds, or tipping points, where the system shifts abruptly from one state to another. In medicine we have spontaneous systemic failures such as asthma attacks or epileptic seizures; in global finance there is concern about systemic market crashes; in the Earth system abrupt shifts in ocean circulation and climate may occur; and sudden breakdown in water quality, rangelands, wildlife or fish populations may threaten ecosystem services. It is notably hard to predict such critical transitions as the state of the system may show little change before the tipping point is reached. Also, models of complex systems are usually not accurate enough to predict reliably where critical thresholds may occur. Interestingly, however, it now appears that certain generic symptoms may occur in a wide class of systems as they approach a critical point. While the theory is straightforward for simple non-linear systems, application to real world situations is challenging. I will give an overview of the latest findings and current work in this field, and invite the audience to think about future possibilities.




15:15 h


Bundesstr. 53, room 022/023
Seminar Room 022/023, Ground Floor, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Hamburg


Marten Scheffer, University of Wageningen, NL


Martin Claussen
Victor Brovkin

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