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Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenario) says

In this sense, scenarios should not be used to speculate on what has happened in the past.

Oxford advanced dictionary says

  1. a description of how things might happen in the future.

So what pithy word should I use to describe an event that could have happened in the past?

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Just scene should do, independent of timeline: "A situation treated as an observable object; hypernym: situation, state of affairs - the general state of things; the combination of circumstances at a given time; synonym: picture" muse.dillfrog.com/meaning/search?word=scene – Kris Jun 23 at 14:11
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Despite what Wikipedia may tell you, there is nothing preventing you from using scenario to refer to past events, especially if the actual circumstances are unknown or unclear: From NOAD:

scenario |səˈne(ə)rēˌō; -ˈnär-| noun ( pl. -os)
a written outline of a movie, novel, or stage work giving details of the plot and individual scenes : imagine the scenarios for four short stories.
• a postulated sequence or development of events : a possible scenario is that he was attacked after opening the front door.
• a setting, in particular for a work of art or literature : the scenario is World War II.

Note that the last two example usages concern themselves with past events.

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That defeats the whole purpose of the question. – Kris Jun 23 at 14:02
@Kris: Contradicting the premise of the question (not the purpose, the divination of which would require you to be clairvoyant) is a valid response. But I wouldn't suppose your ungenerous soul would ever permit you to understand that. What are you trying to be, the Grendel of this site? It doesn't need such a creature, I assure you. – Robusto Jun 23 at 22:35
Whoa... Doesn't the title of the post matter at all? Btw. If I had counted the down votes and trolls I got, I'd have gone nuts long back. We are here as a community, not competitors. – Kris Jun 24 at 5:57
I had meant to flag this as "Not an answer," but only posted a comment instead. – Kris Jun 24 at 5:58
So what's your point? That for you kindness is a vituperation withheld? – Robusto Jun 24 at 12:50

Calling it a counterfactual is another possibility, historiographically speaking:

Counterfactual history, also sometimes referred to as virtual history, is a form of historiography which attempts to answer "what if" questions known as counterfactuals. It seeks to explore history and historical incidents by means of extrapolating a timeline in which certain key historical events did not happen or had an outcome which was different from that which did in fact occur.

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A counterfactual history virtually by definition is one known not to have actually happened. OP's usage is concerned with possible, but not actually known to have happened, which is a different thing. – FumbleFingers Jul 9 '11 at 13:42

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