Tag Archives: lake

Flickering precedes eutrophication in Chinese Lake

Critical transitions in experimental and theoretical systems can be anticipated on the basis of specific warning signs, raising the prospect that it might also be possible to predict future real-world events on the scale of the 2007 global financial crisis and Arab spring. But what to measure? Recent work has focused on critical slowing down, in which a system’s recovery from perturbation is reduced as the transition is approached. Another possibility is flickering, in which increasing shifts between alternative stable states are seen in the run-up to the transition. This study uses long-term data from a real system, a Chinese lake, to show that flickering can be observed and that it occurs up to 20 years before a critical transition — in this case the deterioration of a lake towards a dead ‘eutrophic’ state as algal growth consumes the last available oxygen. (from the editor’s summary in Nature)