Early warning signals and the prosecutor's fallacy

  title={Early warning signals and the prosecutor's fallacy},
  author={Carl Boettiger and Alan Hastings},
  journal={Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences},
  pages={4734 - 4739}
  • C. BoettigerA. Hastings
  • Published 3 October 2012
  • Environmental Science
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Early warning signals have been proposed to forecast the possibility of a critical transition, such as the eutrophication of a lake, the collapse of a coral reef or the end of a glacial period. Because such transitions often unfold on temporal and spatial scales that can be difficult to approach by experimental manipulation, research has often relied on historical observations as a source of natural experiments. Here, we examine a critical difference between selecting systems for study based on… 

Figures from this paper

Early warning signals: the charted and uncharted territories

A core of examples emerges that shares three properties: the phenomenon of rapid regime shifts, a pattern of “critical slowing down” that can be used to detect the approaching shift, and a mechanism of bifurcation driving the sudden change.

Robustness of early warning signals for catastrophic and non-catastrophic transitions

It is found that EWS generally work well to signal an impending saddle-node bifurcation, regardless of the autocorrelation or intensity of the noise, but different methods should be used to predict other types of regime shifts.

False alarms: How early warning signals falsely predict abrupt sea ice loss

This work considers variance and autocorrelation in the context of sea ice loss in an idealized model of the global climate system, and suggests that relying on autcorrelation and variance as early warning signals can raise false alarms in the climate system.

False alarms: How early warning signals predict abrupt sea ice loss

Uncovering universal early warning signals for critical transitions has become a coveted goal in diverse scientific disciplines, ranging from climate science to financial mathematics. There has been a

Early warning signals of recovery in complex systems

It is shown that both abundance and trait-based signals are independently detectable prior to the recovery of stocks, but that combining these two signals provides the best predictions of recovery.

Universal Early Warning Signals of Phase Transitions in Climate Systems

The potential for complex systems to exhibit tipping points in which an equilibrium state undergoes a sudden and often irreversible shift is well established, but prediction of these events using

Resilience indicators: prospects and limitations for early warnings of regime shifts

In the vicinity of tipping points—or more precisely bifurcation points—ecosystems recover slowly from small perturbations. Such slowness may be interpreted as a sign of low resilience in the sense

Performance of early warning signals for disease re-emergence: A case study on COVID-19 data

This study analyses the performance of common EWS such as increasing variance and autocorrelation in detecting the emergence of COVID-19 outbreaks in various countries, based on prevalence data and shows that EWS are successful in detecting disease emergence provided that some basic assumptions are satisfied.

Slower recovery in space before collapse of connected populations

In the authors' experiments, recovery length increased substantially before population collapse, suggesting that the spatial scale of recovery can provide a superior warning signal before tipping points in spatially extended systems.



Slowing down as an early warning signal for abrupt climate change

This work analyzes eight ancient abrupt climate shifts and shows that they were all preceded by a characteristic slowing down of the fluctuations starting well before the actual shift, implying independent empirical evidence for the idea that past abrupt shifts were associated with the passing of critical thresholds.

Early warning of climate tipping points from critical slowing down: comparing methods to improve robustness

Robust indicators of critical slowing down are found prior to the abrupt warming event at the end of the Younger Dryas, but the indicators are less clear prior toThe Bølling-Allerød warming, or glacial termination in Antarctica.

Early warning signals of extinction in deteriorating environments

It is argued that the causes of a population’s decline are central to the predictability of its extinction, and populations crossing a transcritical bifurcation, experimentally induced by the controlled decline in environmental conditions, show statistical signatures of CSD after the onset of environmental deterioration and before the critical transition.

Tipping points: Early warning and wishful thinking

The causes for and possible predictions of rapid climate changes are poorly understood. The most pronounced changes observed, beside the glacial terminations, are the Dansgaard‐Oeschger events.

Spatial variance and spatial skewness: leading indicators of regime shifts in spatial ecological systems

Ecosystems can undergo large-scale changes in their states, known as catastrophic regime shifts, leading to substantial losses to services they provide to humans. These shifts occur rapidly and are

The Prosecutor's Fallacy and the Defense Attorney's Fallacy*

In criminal cases where the evidence shows a match between the defendant and the perpetrator on some characteristic, the jury often receives statistical evidence on the incidence rate of the

A modified method for detecting incipient bifurcations in a dynamical system

We assess the proximity of a system to a bifurcation point using a degenerate fingerprinting method that estimates the declining decay rate of fluctuations in a time series as an indicator of

Slowing Down in Spatially Patterned Ecosystems at the Brink of Collapse

The results illustrate that while critical slowing down may be a universal phenomenon at critical transitions, its detection through indirect indicators may have limitations in particular systems.

Generic Indicators for Loss of Resilience Before a Tipping Point Leading to Population Collapse

The results suggest that indicators of critical slowing down can provide advance warning of catastrophic thresholds and loss of resilience in a variety of dynamical systems.

Climate tipping as a noisy bifurcation: a predictive technique

It is often known, from modelling studies, that a certain mode of climate tipping (of the oceanic thermohaline circulation, for example) is governed by an underlying fold bifurcation. For such a case