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Dynamic Effects Increasing Network Vulnerability to Cascading Failures

Ingve Simonsen, Lubos Buzna, Karsten Peters, Stefan Bornholdt, Dirk Helbing

posted on 17 April 2007

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We study cascading failures in networks using a dynamical flow model based on simple conservation and distribution laws to investigate the impact of transient dynamics caused by the rebalancing of loads after an initial network failure (triggering event). It is found that considering the flow dynamics may imply reduced network robustness compared to previous static overload failure models. This is due to the transient oscillations or overshooting in the loads, when the flow dynamics adjusts to the new (remaining) network structure. We obtain {\em upper} and {\em lower} limits to network robustness, and it is shown that {\it two} time scales $\tau$ and $\tau_0$, defined by the network dynamics, are important to consider prior to accurately addressing network robustness or vulnerability. The robustness of networks showing cascading failures is generally determined by a complex interplay between the network topology and flow dynamics, where the ratio $\chi=\tau/\tau_0$ determines the relative role of the two of them.