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Shifting Climate Zones: Sahel might get 50 % more rain by 2040

09/22/2022 - Climate change could turn one of Africa's driest regions into a very wet one by boosting the Monsoon circulation. New computer simulations show a significant future increase in seasonal rainfall in the Sahel under the current trend of global warming. A major increase in average rainfall might kick-in by 2040 already, which means that it is inevitable regardless of how future greenhouse gas emissions develop. Although crossing this new tipping point is potentially beneficial, it comes with substantial unknowns. The change could in fact be so big, it would be a major adaptation challenge for an already troubled region.
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Risk of passing multiple climate tipping points escalates above 1.5°C global warming

09/09/2022 - Multiple climate tipping points could be triggered if global temperature rises beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a major new analysis published in the journal Science. Even at current levels of global heating the world is already at risk of passing five dangerous climate tipping points, and risks increase with each tenth of a degree of further warming. An international research team synthesised evidence for tipping points, their temperature thresholds, timescales, and impacts from a comprehensive review of over 200 papers published since 2008, when climate tipping points were first rigorously defined.
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Extreme wildfires in Mediterranean countries provide lessons for climate-impacted Europe: Project FirEUrisk

08/15/2022 - The climate crisis is heating up forest fires in Europe. They are also increasingly occurring in northern regions, where they were previously rare in this severe form, researchers from the international FirEUrisk project have explained.
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Less rain in the forest: Amazon even more vulnerable than previously thought

08/02/2022 - For every three trees dying from drought in the Amazon rainforest, a fourth tree – even though not directly affected – will die, too. In simplified terms, that’s what researchers have now found using network analysis to understand the complex workings of one of Earth’s most valuable and biodiverse carbon sinks. The regions most at risk of turning into savannah are located on the forest’s Southern fringes, where continuous clearing for pasture or soy has already been weakening the forest’s resilience for years.
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Increase in heatwaves in western Europe linked to changes in the jet stream

07/05/2022- Heatwaves over Europe have increased three to four times faster than in the rest of the northern mid-latitudes like e.g. the US or Canada, a new study finds. An international team of scientists looked at observational data from the past 40 years and showed, for the first time, that this rapid increase is linked to changes in the atmospheric circulation. Large-scale winds at 5 to 10km height, the so-called jet stream, are changing over Eurasia. Periods during which the jet stream is split into two branches – so called double jet states – have become longer lasting. These double jet states explain almost all of the upward trend in heatwaves in western Europe, and around 30 percent over the larger European domain.
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"For a secure climate future": High-ranking guests at 30 years celebration of Potsdam Institute

06/30/2022 - High-ranking guests attended the 30th anniversary celebration of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) - from federal and Brandenburg politicians to a Nobel laureate. The institute, founded in 1992 and now employing a good 400 people, is needed more today than ever before in the worsening climate crisis, speeches said. The PIK Board of Directors thanked politicians as well as the scientists and all employees of PIK for their part in the success story.
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Stephen Schneider Award for Stefan Rahmstorf

06/13/2022 - Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Research, Department on Earth System Analysis of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), has received the twelfth annual Stephen H. Schneider Award for his outstanding Climate Science Communication to the public.
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Planetary boundaries update: freshwater boundary exceeds safe limits

04/26/2022 - A reassessment of the planetary boundary for freshwater indicates that it has now been transgressed, according to an international team of researchers led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and including the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This conclusion is due to the inclusion of “green water” – the water available to plants – into the boundary assessment for the first time.
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Combining climate and archeological data sheds new light on human origins

A study published in Nature by an international team of scientists provides clear evidence for a link between astronomically-driven climate change and human evolution.
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Potsdam Summer School 2022: Towards a Sustainable Transformation

22/02/2022 - Climate, Energy and Nature in a Changing World – with this overarching theme the Potsdam Summer School will continue the transdisciplinary and interactive series of events that has been held annually in Potsdam, Germany since 2014. It brings together talented early-career scientists and young professionals operating in the private sector, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organisations from many different parts of the world to discuss frontier research questions on future sustainable development and contribute their insights at this exceptional opportunity to foster cooperation and an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas. The call for applications is now open!
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High impact climate events: Better adaptation through earlier prediction

11/16/2021 - The prediction of high impact climate phenomena can be substantially improved by a new mathematical approach that analyses the connectivity and patterns between geographical locations, scientists say in a new publication. This can potentially save thousands of lives and avoid billions in economic losses. Prediction times for events like El Niño, monsoons, droughts or extreme rainfall could be increased substantially, to a month or in some cases even a year in advance, depending on the type of the event. The new framework can thus become key for improving adaptation to the global warming crisis.
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Hotter, wetter, drier: the science behind extreme weather events

10/22/2021 - Extreme weather events are on the rise. Are these events connected? Are they becoming more likely with global warming? In the new episode of the podcast ‘Sustain Ability. The Potsdam Dialogues - Science for a Safe Tomorrow’, experts Friederike Otto and Stefan Rahmstorf give insight into their latest research.
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Unprecedented rise of heat and rainfall extremes in observational data

10/7/2021 - A 90-fold increase in the frequency of monthly heat extremes in the past ten years compared to 1951-1980 has been found by scientists in observation data. Their analysis reveals that so-called 3-sigma heat events, which deviate strongly from what is normal in a given region, now on average affect about 9 percent of all land area at any time. Record daily rainfall events also increased in a non-linear way – on average, 1 in 4 rainfall records in the last decade can be attributed to climate change. Already today, extreme events linked to human-caused climate change are at unprecedented levels, the scientists say, and they must be expected to increase further.
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New report from the Science Panel for the Amazon

09/28/2021 - The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) released an Executive Summary of the Amazon Assessment Report this week, a comprehensive scientific assessment of the state of the Amazon Basin. The report includes recommendations for sustainable development pathways for policy makers and governments. Over 200 renowned scientists from the Amazon and global partners, including scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, came together as the Science Panel for the Amazon to develop this report.
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Major Atlantic ocean current system might be approaching critical threshold

08/05/2021 - The major Atlantic ocean current, to which also the Gulf stream belongs, may have been losing stability in the course of the last century. This is shown in a new study published in Nature Climate Change. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, transports warm water masses from the tropics northward at the ocean surface and cold water southward at the ocean bottom, which is most relevant for the relatively mild temperatures in Europe. Further, it influences weather systems worldwide. A potential collapse of this ocean current system could therefore have severe consequences.
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Leibniz institutions launch initiative “Integrated Earth System Research"

07/09/2021 - Scientists from a wide range of disciplines from Leibniz Association institutions are launching an initiative for “Integrated Earth System Research”. Together with partners from Germany, Europe and other countries, they will investigate the current epoch of the Earth’s history, which is strongly influenced by humans, in a coordinated and interdisciplinary way as never before. The findings will point out both high-risk and safe development paths for politics, business and civil society.
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Fast & comprehensive: First version of Potsdam Earth Model POEM ready for use

7/01/2021 - A first version of the Potsdam Earth Model POEM is up and running. Unlike classic global climate models, POEM – developed by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) – is a fast and versatile earth system model that allows to capture a variety of important biospheric processes. In a first application of the POEM framework, the PIK scientists examined the possible tipping point of the Amazon forest under severe climate change.
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Asteroid impact in Earth’s past caused brief bloom of algae and substantial ocean species’ extinction

06/17/2021 - The asteroid that likely caused dinosaur extinction 66 million years ago triggered strong global cooling and a massive bloom of algae, causing mass extinction also in marine ecosystems. This is the result of a new study from scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The researchers simulated the ocean productivity before and after the asteroid impact – and found a brief global algal bloom peaking at a productivity seven times higher than in the pre-impact ocean. Since the algae likely produced toxins, their increase could have contributed to the extinction of species in the ocean.
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Tipping elements can destabilize each other, leading to climate domino effects

06/03/2021 - Under global warming, tipping elements in the Earth system can destabilize each other and eventually lead to climate domino effects. The ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica are potential starting points for tipping cascades, a novel network analysis reveals. The Atlantic overturning circulation would then act as a transmitter, and eventually elements like the Amazon rainforest would be impacted. The consequences for people would reach from sea-level rise to biosphere degradation. Interactions in the network can lower the critical temperature thresholds beyond which individual tipping elements begin destabilizing on the long-run, according to the study – the risk already increases significantly for warming of 1.5°C to 2°C, hence within the temperature range of the Paris Agreement.
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FirEUrisk: PIK joins EU project to analyze and manage wildfires

06/03/2021 - The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), along with 38 partner institutions from 19 countries, will develop a science-based strategy to manage, monitor and analyze major forest fires in Europe. Funded by the European Union, the FirEUrisk project brings together researchers, practitioners, policymakers and citizens to study the vulnerability and resilience of communities and countries to wildfires in Northern, Central and Mediterranean Europe. The overarching goal of the project is to adapt fire management strategies to expected climate and socio-economic changes.
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Melting ice: Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could reduce sea level rise by 50 percent

05/05/2021 - If efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels are successful, the overall sea level rise caused by melting of ice would be effectively halved. This is the central finding of a new study by an international team of researchers – including Ronja Reese, Ricarda Winkelmann, Torsten Albrecht and Reinhard Calov from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – which examines the land ice contribution to sea levels in the 21st century arising from the world’s glaciers and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
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Girls' Day gives schoolgirls from all over Germany an insight into climate impact research

04/22/2021 – On Girls' Day - 'Future Prospects for Girls' this year, schoolgirls were once again given an insight into the work at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) to discover career prospects in science. Due to the pandemic, this year's Girls' Day took place digitally, allowing for the first time girls from all over Germany to get to know PIK instead of usually just girls from Potsdam and Berlin. Climate researchers Ronja Reese and Constanze Werner talked about their work and answered everything the girls wanted to know in an open question session.
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Online European Geosciences Union 2021 with strong PIK participation

04/21/2021 - One of the largest scientific meetings worldwide, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly, virtually brings together geoscientists from all over the planet – amongst them many scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). From 19 to 30 April 2021, the EGU covers all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences and provides a forum where scientists, especially early-career researchers, can present their work and discuss their ideas with experts in all fields of geoscience.
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When the flames are out, danger continues: Cascading effects of wildfires

03/15/2021 - After extreme weather events like droughts and wildfires, it often only takes small additional natural hazards like rainfall to trigger further disastrous cascading hazards, a new study finds. A team of scientists based in Potsdam and Berlin analyzed the devastating forest fires in Australia from 2019 to 2020, which - in their intensity and severity – are likely linked to human-made global warming. The researchers reveal that the following much needed rain caused severe further damage, gravely impacting both people and nature.
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Limiting water stress risks: irrigation management key for bioenergy production to mitigate climate change

03/08/2021 - To avoid a substantial increase in water scarcity, biomass plantations for energy production need sustainable water management, a new study shows. Bioenergy is frequently considered one of the options to reduce greenhouse gases for achieving the Paris climate goals, especially if combined with capturing the CO2 from biomass power plants and storing it underground. Yet growing large-scale bioenergy plantations worldwide does not just require land, but also considerable amounts of freshwater for irrigation – which can be at odds with respecting Earth’s Planetary Boundaries. Scientists now calculated in their to date most detailed computer simulations how much additional water stress could result for people worldwide in a scenario of conventional irrigation and one of sustainable freshwater use.
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PIK at the Chaos Communication Congress rC3

12/23/2020 - This year everything is different. The legendary Chaos Communication Congress is taking place remotely this year due to Corona - but experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research will contribute. The major event of Europe's largest hacker association Chaos Computer Club (CCC) traditionally attracts thousands of people to the exhibition halls in Leipzig over the four days between Christmas and New Year, but this year those interested can attend the Remote Chaos Experience (rC3) from home.
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Levke Caesar awarded with Publication Prize by the Leibniz-Kolleg Potsdam

12/15/2020 – This year's Publication Prize awarded by the Leibniz-Kolleg to young scientists goes to PIK-affiliated researcher Levke Caesar. A former student at the University of Potsdam, the award recognizes her important contributions in the field of climate physics – particularly her research into the evolution of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and its impact on the Earth System.
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”Highly Cited Scientists 2020” ranking: success for PIK researchers

11/18/2020 – The “Highly Cited Scientists” list once again features a number of PIK researchers. Twelve of them rank in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in the 2020 Web of Science citation index, which is an indicator of scientific relevance. It is a remarkable success that the listed researchers are almost equally distributed across PIK departments and natural and social sciences. Many of them scored well in the “cross field” category of the ranking. The two Directors on the list, representing two important fields – Johan Rockström with Earth System Science and Ottmar Edenhofer with Economy –, are confirming the overarching result: high level transdisciplinary research earns international recognition.
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Ice loss due to warming leads to warming due to ice loss: a vicious circle

10/27/2020 - The loss of huge ice masses can contribute to the warming that is causing this loss and further risks. A new study now quantifies this feedback by exploring long-term if-then-scenarios. If the Arctic summer sea-ice were to melt completely, a scenario that is likely to become reality at least temporarily within this century with ongoing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, this could eventually add roughly 0.2°C to global warming. This is, however, not in addition to IPCC projections of future warming since these already take the relevant mechanisms into account. Still, the scientists could now separate the effects of the ice loss from other effects and quantify it. The 0.2°C are substantial, given that global mean temperature is currently about one degree higher than in pre-industrial times, and governments worldwide agreed to stop the increase well below two degrees.
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Stability Check on Antarctica Reveals High Risk for Long-Term Sea-Level Rise

09/23/2020 - The warmer it gets, the faster Antarctica loses ice – and much of it will then be gone forever. Consequences for the world’s coastal cities and cultural heritage sites would be detrimental, from London to Mumbai, and from New York to Shanghai. That’s what a team of researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam University and New York’s Columbia University has found out in their new study, published in Nature (cover story), on how much warming the Antarctic Ice Sheet can survive. In around one million hours of computation time, their unprecedentedly detailed simulations delineate where exactly and at which warming levels the ice would become unstable and eventually melt and drain into the ocean. They find a delicate concert of accelerating and moderating effects, but the main conclusion is that unmitigated climate change would have dire long-term consequences: If the global mean temperature level is sustained long enough at 4 degrees above pre-industrial levels, Antarctic melting alone could eventually raise global sea levels by more than six meters.
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