The notion of a part of phase space containing desired (or allowed) states of a dynamical system is important in a wide range of complex systems research. It has been called the safe operating space, the viability kernel or the sunny region. In this paper we define the notion of survivability: Given a random initial condition, what is the likelihood that the transient behaviour of a deterministic system does not leave a region of desirable states. We demonstrate the utility of this novel stability measure by considering models from climate science, neuronal networks and power grids. We also show that a semi-analytic lower bound for the survivability of linear systems allows a numerically very efficient survivability analysis in realistic models of power grids. Our numerical and semi-analytic work underlines that the type of stability measured by survivability is not captured by common asymptotic stability measures.
We acknowledge gratefully the support of BMBF, CoNDyNet, FK. 03SF0472A, of the EIT Climate-KIC project SWIPO and Nora Molkenthin for illustrating our illustration of the concept of survivability using penguins. We thank Martin Rohden for providing us with the UK high-voltage transmission grid topology and Yang Tang for very useful discussions. The publication of this article was funded by the Open Access Fund of the Leibniz Association.