Critical Transitions Workshop I

Tuesday, June 7, 11AM-3:30PM EDT (New York City time)

This workshop concerns critical transitions, phase transitions, and early warning indicators in physical, natural, social, and socio-ecological systems. Our goals are to bring together leading researchers in these areas to encourage collaborations, generate new ideas through interdisciplinary exchange, and identify future research directions. Each session will consist of several short talks in which presenters will conclude by posing one or two pressing questions; the remainder of the sessions will then be dedicated to discussion between the participants. 

Time breakdown (4.5hrs=270 mins, Times are given in EDT)

11:00-11:15 AMIntro – 15 mins
11:15-12:05 PMSession 1 – 50 minutes
12:05-12:20 PMBreak – 15 mins
12:20-1:20 PMSession 2 – 60 minutes
1:20-1:35 PMBreak – 15 minutes
1:35-2:35 PMSession 3 – 60 minutes
2:35-2:50 PMBreak – 15 minutes
2:50-3:30 PMPlenary – 40 mins
Discuss future directions & future workshops

Session 1: Phase transitions: Theory and concepts 

Theory of phase transitions & criticality; first and second order; limitations of applicability in complex system tipping; dimensionality.


  • George Hagstrom (Princeton): Setting the stage: critical transitions theory
  • Guillaume Falmagne (Princeton): Critical transitions and emergent phenomena in physical systems
  • James Watson (Oregon) w/ Juan Bonachela (Rutgers): Dimensional Change in Complex Systems Dictates Regime Shifts

Discussion – 30 minutes (Moderator: Juan Bonachela)


Session 2: Transitions in Socio-Ecological Systems 

Social dynamics; collective behavior; coupled human-natural systems; differences between human and non-human systems; “real-life” examples and how they “match” the theory; Interplay of slow and fast change in regime shifts; statistical physics for models of SES tipping; modeling SES tipping.


  • Jonathan Donges (PIK): Examining tipping points in social-ecological network dynamics: Stat physics for studying SES tipping – cancelled
  • Carl Folke (SRC): Phase transitions in the governance of social-ecological systems – cancelled
  • Juan Rocha (SRC): Ecosystems are showing signs of resilience loss
  • Victoria Junquera (Princeton): Crop booms as land regime shifts
  • Giuseppe Ferro (Princeton): Differences between human and “non-human” complex systems. Does human “awareness” of being part of a complex system play a significant role?

Discussion – 30 minutes (Moderator: James Watson)


Session 3: Early warning signals & Tipping  

Tipping dynamics; early warning indicators and measurement; data analysis tools; machine learning methods; methodological pitfalls and challenges.


  • Alan Hastings (UC Davis): transient dynamics, nonautonomous systems, and tipping points
  • Yannis Kevrekidis (Johns Hopkins): Machine Learning of Tipping Points in Agent-Based Models
  • Jin Wang (Stony Brook): New early warning signals of tipping points based on the nonequilibirum landscape and flux theory  

Discussion – 30 minutes (Moderator: Jin Wang)


Open questions – Moderator: Alan Hastings

Collaborations and future workshops


Unifying/core papers

  1. Boettiger, Carl, Noam Ross, and Alan Hastings. “Early warning signals: the charted and uncharted territories.” Theoretical ecology 6, no. 3 (2013): 255-264.
  2. Hagstrom, George I., and Simon A. Levin. “Phase transitions and the theory of early warning indicators for critical transitions.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2110.12287 (2021).
  3. Lenton, Timothy M., Hermann Held, Elmar Kriegler, Jim W. Hall, Wolfgang Lucht, Stefan Rahmstorf, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. “Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system.” Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences 105, no. 6 (2008): 1786-1793.
  4. Scheffer, Marten, Jordi Bascompte, William A. Brock, Victor Brovkin, Stephen R. Carpenter, Vasilis Dakos, Hermann Held, Egbert H. Van Nes, Max Rietkerk, and George Sugihara. “Early-warning signals for critical transitions.” Nature 461, no. 7260 (2009): 53-59.

Early warning signals & Tipping

  1. Boers, Niklas, and Martin Rypdal. “Critical slowing down suggests that the western Greenland Ice Sheet is close to a tipping point.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, no. 21 (2021).
  2. Boettiger, Carl, and Alan Hastings. “Early warning signals and the prosecutor’s fallacy.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279, no. 1748 (2012): 4734-4739.
  3. Klose, Ann Kristin, Nico Wunderling, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Jonathan F. Donges. “What do we mean,‘tipping cascade’?.” Environmental Research Letters 16, no. 12 (2021): 125011.

Socio-ecological systems

  1. Rocha, Juan C., Garry Peterson, Örjan Bodin, and Simon Levin. “Cascading regime shifts within and across scales.” Science 362, no. 6421 (2018): 1379-1383.
  2. Wiedermann, M., Donges, J.F., Heitzig, J., Lucht, W. and Kurths, J., 2015. Macroscopic description of complex adaptive networks coevolving with dynamic node states. Physical Review E, 91(5), p.052801.
  3. Winkelmann, Ricarda, Jonathan F. Donges, E. Keith Smith, Manjana Milkoreit, Christina Eder, Jobst Heitzig, Alexia Katsanidou, Marc Wiedermann, Nico Wunderling, and Timothy M. Lenton. “Social tipping processes towards climate action: a conceptual framework.” Ecological Economics 192 (2022): 107242.
  4. Morozov, Andrew, Karen Abbott, Kim Cuddington, Tessa Francis, Gabriel Gellner, Alan Hastings, Ying-Cheng Lai, Sergei Petrovskii, Katherine Scranton, and Mary Lou Zeeman. “Long transients in ecology: theory and applications.” Physics of Life Reviews 32 (2020): 1-40.

Phase Transitions: Theory & Concepts

  1. Rietkerk, Max, Robbin Bastiaansen, Swarnendu Banerjee, Johan van de Koppel, Mara Baudena, and Arjen Doelman. “Evasion of tipping in complex systems through spatial pattern formation.” Science 374, no. 6564 (2021): eabj0359.
  2. Bouchaud, Jean-Philippe. “Crises and collective socio-economic phenomena: simple models and challenges.” Journal of Statistical Physics 151, no. 3 (2013): 567-606.
  3. Herrfahrdt-Pähle, Elke, Maja Schlüter, Per Olsson, Carl Folke, Stefan Gelcich, and Claudia Pahl-Wostl. “Sustainability transformations: socio-political shocks as opportunities for governance transitions.” Global Environmental Change 63 (2020): 102097.
  4. Liu, Ping, C. I. Siettos, C. William Gear, and I. G. Kevrekidis. “Equation-free model reduction in agent-based computations: Coarse-grained bifurcation and variable-free rare event analysis.” Mathematical Modeling of Natural Phenomena 10, no. 3 (2015): 71-90.

Workshop Organizers
Victoria Junquera (Princeton University)
Woi Sok Oh (Princeton University)
Denis Patterson (Princeton University)
Nico Wunderling (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)