On the subject of weather and climate change, I'm wondering if there's a word that sums up "the worst case scenario"? At the moment I'm stuck on amplitude, as an expression of the field of/variations in outcomes... But I'm looking for something better! Ideally I'm looking for a tidy expression signifying maximum possible effect: The something something... (Not apocalypse etc) I know it exists, I just can't put my finger on it.

Many thanks for any help.

  • 1
    What do you mean by "apocalypse etc?" Are there specific words you're not interested in, other than apocalypse? I also wonder if the frequent use of the phrase "worst-case scenario" might reflect the absence of the term you seek. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 1:13
  • If you ask me, surely the 'nuclear winter' scenario is as scary as it can get in the OP's scheme of things. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 3:35
  • I think, Katherine, that "apocalypse" or "apocalyptic" felt somehow emotionally invested (and perhaps too total). But I completely agree, the over-popular "worst-case scenario" has become such everyday speak that I feel we've lost the more articulate version!
    – Chris
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 9:54
  • Thank you, Peter, although I think maybe "nuclear winter" is too much the result and not enough chain-of-events, if you see what I mean?
    – Chris
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 9:56

4 Answers 4



The first word that comes to mind is Cataclysmic.

From Dictionary.com

cataclysmic (or cataclysmal)


  1. of, relating to, or resulting from a cataclysm.
  2. of the nature of, or having the effect of, a cataclysm : cataclysmic changes.




  1. any violent upheaval, especially one of a social or political nature.
  2. Physical Geography: a sudden and violent physical action producing changes in the earth's surface.
  3. an extensive flood; deluge.

But, to borrow a phrase from "Doomsday: 10 Ways the World Will End", I like the expression Extinction-level event. That certainly seems like it would be the worst-case scenario.


  • I'd go along with an "extinction-level event" and suggest that the nuclear winter, if and when this happens, is the ultimate event. I think this is more likely to happen before global warming fully kicks in as the harbinger of doomsday in our temporal world on planet earth. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 3:54
  • "Cataclysm" is a great word, thank you!
    – Chris
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 14:13

How about doomsday scenario?

Oxford English Dictionaries:

doomsday: the last day of the world's existence; a time or event of crisis or great danger: [as modifier] ‘in all the concern over greenhouse warming, one doomsday scenario stands out’

It's hard to imagine anything worse happening than doomsday. We can all put our heads between our knees and kiss our asses goodbye.

  • Thank you! I'm hoping the one cannot happen without the other i.e. the amount of infinite yoga I would need in order to pucker up and successfully put lips to butt means we have a good while on this planet yet.
    – Chris
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 14:17

Catastrophic fits your description

  • It really does, and is less final than "apocalyptic" (which is good for what I'm writing) - many thanks!
    – Chris
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 14:14

Perhaps, the extreme works, the assumption being that we are considering only the negative (undesirable) direction. Else, typically (in the most simplistic case) there are at least two extremes as in the minimum and maximum. Your own consideration of amplitude actually implies magnitude of the extreme (with respect to a reference point/measurement).

'the extreme to which climate can change.'


extreme NOUN
1.1 The highest or most extreme degree of something:
‘extremes of temperature’


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