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Winter weather extremes in the US and Europe: messing with giant airstreams in the stratosphere
22/11/2018 - Over Thanksgiving, arctic air masses are predicted to bring record-cold temperatures and frigid winds to the Northeast of the United States. Driver for such winter weather extremes is often the stratospheric polar vortex, a band of fast moving winds 30 kilometers above the ground. In winter, when the polar vortex is disturbed by upward-blowing air masses, this can bring cold spells over Northeastern America or Eurasia, a new study now shows. And paradox as it might seem, climate change might further disrupt the complex dynamics in the atmosphere – bringing us not only more hot extremes in summer but potentially also cold spells in winter.
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Extreme weather will likely become more frequent due to stalling of giant waves in the atmosphere
01/11/2018 - Computer simulations predict a strong increase of events in which the undulations of the jet stream in the atmosphere stop moving along and grow very large. This can favor more frequent extreme weather events on the ground: the westerly winds stop pushing forward weather systems which hence become more persistent – a few sunny days grow into heatwaves, extended rains lead to floods. An international team of scientists links this to human-caused warming specifically in the Arctic.
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Planet at risk of heading towards irreversible “Hothouse Earth” state
06/08/2018 - Keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed. An international team of scientists has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of the planet entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions. A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says. The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy.
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Nice sunny days can grow into heat waves – and wildfires: summer weather is stalling
20/08/2018 - Be it heavy downpours or super-hot spells, summer weather becomes more persistent in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. When those conditions stall for several days or weeks, they can turn into extremes: heatwaves resulting in droughts, health risks and wildfires; or relentless rainfall resulting in floods. A team of scientists now presents the first comprehensive review of research on summer weather stalling focusing on the influence of the disproportionally strong warming of the Arctic as caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Evidence is mounting, they show, that we likely meddle with circulation patterns high up in the sky. These are affecting, in turn, regional and local weather patterns – with sometimes disastrous effects on the ground. This has been the case with the 2016 wildfire in Canada, another team of scientists show in a second study.
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China floods to hit US economy: climate effects through trade chains
05/28/2018 - Intensifying river floods could lead to regional production losses worldwide caused by global warming. This might not only hamper local economies around the globe – the effects might also propagate through the global network of trade and supply chains, a study now published in Nature Climate Change shows. It is the first to assess this effect for flooding on a global scale, using a newly developed dynamic economic model. It finds that economic flood damages in China, which could, without further adaption, increase by 80 percent within the next 20 years, might also affect EU and US industries. The US economy might be specifically vulnerable due to its unbalanced trade relation with China. Contrary to US president Trump’s current tariff sanctions, the study suggests that building stronger and thus more balanced trade relations might be a useful strategy to mitigate economic losses caused by intensifying weather extremes.
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Adaptation now: River flood risks increase around the globe under future warming
11/01/2018 - Rainfall changes caused by global warming will increase river flood risks across the globe. Already today, fluvial floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters. Scientists have now calculated the required increase in flood protection until the 2040s worldwide, breaking it down to single regions and cities. They find that the need for adaptation is greatest in the US, parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe including Germany. Inaction would expose many millions of people to severe flooding.
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The Sustainability Dialogues Podcast
05/06/2020 - What happens when a professional snowboarder and a distinguished climate scientist take off to the mountains together? The results are now public – a podcast with five episodes, covering topics from ice and glaciers to what to eat to save the world.
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Australian bush fires: "What is happening in the southeast of Australia right now is breaking all records"
10/01/2020 - Australia is burning. In a statement, Kirsten Thonicke, expert for fire ecology and forests at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), explains the causes and how the devastating fires are related to man-made climate change.
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"Heat waves are on the rise": PIK statement
24/06/2019 - Germany likely faces a heat wave this week. In which way is this releated to human-caused climate change?
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Make climate impact models fit for extreme events, says study
01/03/2019 - Computer models used for assessing future global climate change risks are doing a good job when it comes to gradual changes, but they may be underestimating the severity of extreme events, finds an international team of scientists led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. They compared, for the first time, a large number of different simulations across sectors with the measured impacts of the 2003 European heat wave. In reality, the heat wave and drought in 2003 hit agriculture and ecosystems hard, and caused thousands of excess fatalities. These extreme impacts were not captured by most of the simulations. This means that there is an urgent need to develop models that better represent impacts from climate extremes. It also means that unmitigated global warming might be more costly and stabilizing our climate hence economically more rewarding than so far estimated.
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