Early-Warning Signals for Critical Temperature Transitions

Chenghao Wang, Zhi Hua Wang, Linda Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Critical transitions of the state variable (temperature) in dynamic climate systems often lead to catastrophic consequence, whereas the effort to reverse the transitions usually lags behind. However, these transitions are characterized by the slowing down of recovery from perturbations, carrying early-warning signals that can be used to predict system bifurcation. In this study, we employ the conceptual framework of pitchfork bifurcation and analyze the early-warning signals in temperature time series for critical slowing down prior to both the early 20th century global warming and heat waves. We also investigate the urban signature in these heat waves. The emergence of early-warning signals before heat waves provides new insights into the underlying mechanisms (e.g., possible feedback via land-atmosphere interactions). In particular, given the increasing frequency and intensity of heat extremes, the results will facilitate the design of countermeasures to reserve the tipping and restore the resilience of climate systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GL088503
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 28 2020


  • early-warning signals
  • heat waves
  • pitchfork bifurcation
  • slowing down
  • tipping points
  • urban fingerprint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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