News

RD4 - Complexity Science
 

Building trust, not hate: When people know each other, cooperation is more likely than conflict

03/30/2017 - When anonymity between people is lifted, they more likely cooperate with each other. Playing nice can thereby become a winning strategy, an international team of scientists shows in a study to be published in Science Advances. The findings are based on experiments with a limited number of participants but might have far-reaching implications, if confirmed. Reducing anonymity could help social networks such as Facebook or Twitter that suffer from hate and fake news. It might also help in conflicts about environmental resources.
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Sharing insights, shaping the future: PIK Research Days

02/10/2017 - This week, all scientists and staff of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) gathered for their annual roadshow of scientific achievements and discussions of future projects. Packed with presentations and debates, PIK´s Research Days are an unequalled opportunity to share insights and shape the future course of the institute.
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"Transformation now": Earth League meets in Potsdam

01/23/2017 - Some of the most distinguished international climate experts are gathering in Potsdam this week for a symposium of the Earth League, a self-organized initiative of leading researchers on global change. During two days, they will discuss how the Great Transformation towards sustainability can be brought about. The success of the Paris climate agreement aiming at completely decarbonizing our economies within a few decades is by no means ensured; fulfilling its objectives requires a ratcheting-up of ambitions through social, political and economic progress.
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Potsdam Young Scientist Award for Max Franks

2016/11/28 – Max Franks from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) was honoured with the Potsdam Young Scientist Award. Mayor Jann Jakobs handed the prize to Franks at the Einstein Day of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in appreciation of his outstanding achievements in the field of economic sciences.
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The Potsdam Institute at COP22 in Marrakech

11/09/2016 - Researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) are attending the current UN climate summit COP22 in Marrakesch from November 7 to 18. Amongst other events, PIK Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber will speak at a side-event of the German Advisory Council on Global Change on the science-policy dialogue to reach Paris targets. PIK chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer will discuss the potential of the Paris Agreement in a side event with colleagues from Arizona State University, Harvard Kennedy School and others.
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Crash of seemingly stable social systems: new dynamics detected

09/30/2016 - From Facebook to international climate agreements like the Paris accord that is currently in the ratification process, the stability of complex social networks is still poorly understood. To better assess system crash likelihood, an international team of scientists now proposes a new mathematical system dynamics model. One key factor for system collapse is individual action based on local information, the study finds. When a member of the network - be it a person or a state - observes friends or allies to leave the system, it likely opts out as well. Small perturbations can hence have huge impacts.
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Climate disasters increase risk of armed conflict in multi-ethnic countries

07/26/2016 - Climate disasters like heat-waves or droughts enhance the risk of armed conflicts in countries with high ethnic diversity, scientists found. They used a novel statistical approach to analyze data from the past three decades. While each conflict is certainly the result of a complex and specific mix of factors, it turns out that the outbreak of violence in ethnically fractionalized countries is often linked to natural disasters that may fuel smoldering social tensions. This finding, to be published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, can help in the design of security policies – even more so since future global warming from human-made greenhouse-gas emissions will increase natural disasters and therefore likely also risks of conflicts and migration.
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Friends of PIK: Simonis honoured, Stock nominated

28/07/2016 - The Society of Friends and Promoters of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has honoured its longstanding president Udo Simonis for his tremendous efforts and made him honorary chairman. Manfred Stock took over the lead of the society. The tribute took place during festive symposium on biodiversity, and the institute´s scientists applauded their old and new supporters of their work. The symposium was organized by the research domain Transdisciplinary Concepts & Methods.
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Successful early forecasting of Indian Monsoon

2016/07/14 - A novel approach of unprecedentedly early forecasting of the Indian Monsoon proved to be successful. The new methodology - developed at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) - correctly predicted this year’s monsoon onset over central India and met great interest by both Indian academics and stakeholders, including the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). The accurate long-range monsoon forecasting is of critical importance for millions of farmers in India. [Please find an UPDATE on the withdrawal below.]
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Young scientists meet at PIK: What comes after a PhD?

Young scientist from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) discussed their working routines and career perspectives with regard to their doctorate. Once a year the “PhD-Day” offers the opportunity to meet up in the whole group of PhD candidates to share experiences, talk about research projects and train in science related skills. The focus of the current meeting was on possible career steps following the doctoral thesis.
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Indian monsoon: novel approach allows early forecasting

04/20/2016 - The Indian monsoon’s yearly onset and withdrawal can now be forecasted significantly earlier than previously possible. A team of scientists developed a novel prediction method based on a network analysis of regional weather data, and will propose this approach to the Indian Meteorological Department. The heavy summer rains are of vital importance for millions of farmers feeding the subcontinent’s population. Future climate change will likely affect monsoon stability and hence makes accurate forecasting even more relevant.
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Leibniz President Kleiner visits PIK

01/27/2016 - The president of Leibniz Association, Matthias Kleiner, visited the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) for an exchange on current projects and developments. Among other topics the focus of the meetings was also on research strategies. Kleiner met with PIK Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber as well as with the Chairs of PIK’s four research domains.
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Rise and fall of societies linked to climatic conditions

10/14/2015 - Societies seem to have been rising and falling with the stability of climatic conditions, a new study indicates. Published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A of London, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the Pennsylvania State University in the United States analyzed 2000 year old climate records of Mexican and Andean highlands and compared them to historic records. The results indicate that persistently volatile climatic conditions can contribute to the collapse of preindustrial agrarian states.
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Distinguishing coincidence from causality: connections in the climate system

10/07/2015 - Detecting how changes in one spot on Earth – in temperature, rain, wind – are linked to changes in another, far away area is key to assessing climate risks. Scientists now developed a new technique of finding out if one change can cause another change or not, and which regions are important gateways for such teleconnections. They use advanced mathematical tools for an unprecedented analysis of data from thousands of air pressure measurements. The method now published in Nature Communications can be applied to assess geoengineering impacts as well as global effects of local extreme weather events, and can potentially also be applied to the diffusion of disturbances in financial markets, or the human brain.
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Debate in the run-up to Paris

09/10/2015 - What´s in store at the next climate conference, COP21, later this year? This week, staff of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research gathered for an exchange of insights and perspectives. There were a number of contributions from post-docs and senior scientists on the latest research that stimulated a vibrant discussion.
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How network dynamics shape collaboration

08/25/2015 - From the Earth System to the human brain, from families to Facebook – complex networks can be found everywhere around us. Describing the structure of socio-economic systems, the analysis of complex networks can improve our understanding of interactions and transformations within our society. A team of researchers now used this approach to explore the development of large coalitions in a network of acquaintances, when cooperation promises the highest economic or social advantages. For the first time, they focused on how social relations interact with this process. Published in the journal Scientific Reports of the renowned Nature group, their results show that full cooperation is most probable when the network adapts only slowly to new coalition structures. If the network adapts faster than new coalitions form, its fragmentation might prevent the formation of large-scale coalitions.
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From power grids to heartbeat: Using mathematics to restore rhythm

07/15/2015 - When a rhythm stalls, the effect can be fatal – in a power grid it can mean a blackout, and in the human heart even death. An international team of scientists has now developed a new approach for revoking these undesired quenching states. They use an advanced mathematical methodology, building on complex networks analysis, and demonstrate it in experiments with chemical reactions. This could one day help to stabilize the flow of electricity in power grids challenged by the variable input from renewable energy sources. Future research could apply it to other complex networks, including processes within body cells and even the human cardiovascular system.
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Getting connected: PhD-Day at the Potsdam-Institute

06/03/2015 - From social networks for scientists and copyright issues and to visualization tools in climate research or dealing with climate skepticism – topics like these were discussed recently by young scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research at their annual meeting. The PhD-Day offers the opportunity for doctoral candidates to get together, share experiences and for further education in different science related fields. The theme of this year’s meeting was “getting connected”.
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Towards a new industrial revolution: studying societies’ metabolism

05/19/2015 - To achieve a lasting transition towards sustainability, large-scale conversion of our built environment – cities, transport systems, power generation – is key. This is an outcome of a special feature investigating advances in the research on industrial ecology, published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and coordinated by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Studies cover topics from the urbanization effects to the material basis of modern societies, fundamental research that informs decision-makers.
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New forecasting method: Predicting extreme floods in the Andes mountains

10/14/2014 - Predicting floods following extreme rainfall in the central Andes is enabled by a new method. Climate change has made these events more frequent and more severe in recent decades. Now complex networks analysis of satellite weather data makes it possible to produce a robust warning system for the first time, a study to be published in the journal Nature Communications shows. This might allow for improved disaster preparedness. As the complex systems technique builds upon a mathematical comparison that can be utilised for any time series data, the approach could be applied to extreme events in all sorts of complex systems.
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US Government Accountability Office seeks exchange with climate scientists

02/23/2015 - The Government Accountability Office of the US Congress (GAO) considers climate change impacts such as floodings or droughts to be a financial risk. To study the German perspective on this issue, it sent a high-ranking delegation to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) as well as to some other institutions in Europe. This will result in a report on how to improve climate services in the US.
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Exploring image politics of climate change

12/08/2014 - Scientists as well as professionals in politics, education, media or fine arts have long been struggling to depict climate change, a highly abstract concept by definition. In their recently published book "Image Politics of Climate Change", PIK's Thomas Nocke and Birgit Schneider of the University of Potsdam examine a variety of images picturing global warming sparked by climate change research. They explore how these graphics have not only increased knowledge about the subject, but have begun to influence popular awareness. These visualizations vary significantly depending on their purpose, complexity and style - ranging from colorful scientific diagrams and model visualizations to photographs and paintings of extreme weather events or polar bears.
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From Chaos to Order: How Ants optimize Food Search

05/27/2014 - Ants are capable of complex problem-solving strategies that could be widely applied as optimization techniques. An individual ant searching for food walks in random ways, biologists found. Yet the collective foraging behaviour of ants goes well beyond that, as a mathematical study to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals: The animal movements at a certain point change from chaos to order. This happens in a surprisingly efficient self-organized way. Understanding the ants could help analyze similar phenomena - for instance how humans roam in the internet.
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Two PIK researchers appointed professor at Humboldt University

05/23/2014 - Industrial ecology and land use: for these two research areas leading scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have recently been appointed professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin. “We are glad that Professor Helga Weisz and Professor Hermann Lotze-Campen, two renowned climate scientists, are joining HU, and that PIK and HU today are connected through no less than five professorships,” says Peter Frensch, Vice-President for Research at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
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Networks in the climate system: Research gap is closed

02/24/2014 - There are networks within the climate system of the earth: Changes at one point can trigger changes at another, far away point – so an El Niño-event in South America can interfere with the Asian monsoon. Up to now, these correlations could only be determined statistically by comparing observation data and time series. A study now for the first time reveals the physical mechanisms behind the statistics. According to an article published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in the journal Scientific Reports, a new open access journal of the renowned Nature group, flows are of prime interest here.
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