Universal early warning signals of phase transitions in climate systems

Daniel Dylewsky*, Timothy M. Lenton, Marten Scheffer, Thomas M. Bury, Christopher G. Fletcher, Madhur Anand, Chris T. Bauch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


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 standard forecast modelling techniques is quite difficult. This has led to the development of an alternative suite of methods that seek to identify signatures of critical phenomena in data, which are expected to occur in advance of many classes of dynamical bifurcation. Crucially, the manifestations of these critical phenomena are generic across a variety of systems, meaning that data-intensive deep learning methods can be trained on (abundant) synthetic data and plausibly prove effective when transferred to (more limited) empirical datasets. This paper provides a proof of concept for this approach as applied to lattice phase transitions: a deep neural network trained exclusively on two-dimensional Ising model phase transitions is tested on a number of real and simulated climate systems with considerable success. Its accuracy frequently surpasses that of conventional statistical indicators, with performance shown to be consistently improved by the inclusion of spatial indicators. Tools such as this may offer valuable insight into climate tipping events, as remote sensing measurements provide increasingly abundant data on complex geospatially resolved Earth systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220562
JournalJournal of the Royal Society, Interface
Issue number201
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • early warning signals
  • machine learning
  • phase transitions
  • tipping points


Dive into the research topics of 'Universal early warning signals of phase transitions in climate systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this