News

Asteroid impact in Earth’s past caused brief bloom of algae and substantial ocean species’ extinction

17/06/2021 - 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.
Read More
Press Release

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.
Read More
News

FirEUrisk: PIK joins EU project to analyze and manage wildfires

03/06/2021 - 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.
Read More
News

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.
Read More
News

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.
Read More
News

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.
Read More
News

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.
Read More
Press Release

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.
Read More
News

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.
Read More
News

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.
Read More
News

”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.
Read More
Press Release

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.
Read More
Press Release

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.
Read More

Earth System Analysis

Oceans, Atmosphere and Biosphere in Past, Present and Future
Read More

Berlin Climate and Security Conference Kicks Off Major New Risk Assessment

06/23/2020 - Climate destabilization increases risks to peace and security - to address these risks, scientists and policy-makers are teaming up to find solutions. The Berlin Climate and Security Conference (BCSC) is the global meeting place for leaders from governments, international organisations, the scientific community, the private sector and civil society to explore how climate change is impacting peace and security—and what action the international community can take to tackle climate-fragility risks. This year the high-level event, which features statements from over 14 foreign ministers, heads of state, and UN chiefs, explores the steps necessary to ensure we build a climate- and conflict-sensitive post-Covid world. It is organised by the German Federal Foreign Office, in partnership with adelphi and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Read More

Museum für Naturkunde & PIK launch Summer School for Climate Knowledge

06/19/2020 - At the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, interested guests can use the summer holidays to strengthen their knowledge of the climate and its effects - and young people from all over Germany can take part online. The summer school is taking place in cooperation with researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and for the first time digitally. The easy-to-understand lectures and workshops complement each other, but can also be attended individually.
Read More

Federal Government reappoints Wolfgang Lucht to the German Advisory Council

10.06.2020 - The German government has reappointed Wolfgang Lucht to its German Advisory Council on the Environment. Lucht is co-head of the Earth System Analysis Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and has been a member of the Council for the past four years. Only a few days ago, the seven-member Council submitted a report of several hundred pages - which is only published every four years - to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Svenja Schulze. The committee of professors repeatedly takes a critical stance on current issues and thus advises the government.
Read More

Delayed monsoon onset in Central India: early warning forecast

12/05/2020 - Summer Monsoon in Central India will likely begin between 18th and 26 of June, according to the new early forecast developed at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Led by PIK expert Elena Surovyatkina, the Monsoon forecast method showed to be successful already four years in a row. With global warming the monsoon is changing, breaking well-established “rules” of the phenomenon and thus becoming more unpredictable. A raising demand for a new understanding of the Indian Monsoon in order to be better prepared makes long-term forecasting even more important.
Read More

Sea level could rise more than 1 metre by 2100 if emission targets are not met, reveals survey amongst 100 experts

08/05/2020 - Global mean sea-level rise could exceed 1 metres by 2100 and 5 metres by 2300 with unchecked emissions, a survey among 100 leading international experts finds. The risk assessment is based on the increasing body of knowledge of the systems involved – while the scientists highlight the remaining uncertainties, they say it is clear now that previous sea-level rise estimates have been too low. The study led by scientists of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) appears today in the Nature partner journal Climate and Atmospheric Science.
Read More

Climate disasters increase risks of armed conflicts: new evidence

02/04/2020 - The risk for violent clashes increases after weather extremes such as droughts or floods hit people in vulnerable countries, an international team of scientists finds. Vulnerable countries are characterized by a large population, political exclusion of particular ethnic groups, and low development. The study combines global statistical analysis, observation data and regional case study assessments to yield new evidence for policy-makers.
Read More

Homeschooling: Researchers support online learning with explanatory videos

01/04/2020 - As schools are closed due to the corona crisis, the Potsdam Institute offers special online lectures for children and young people as a small contribution to learning at home. Explanatory videos conveying some basics about the climate are intended to provide inspiration for the many hours spent at the desk at home instead of in the classroom. The films are created by the scientists themselves - a little handout from the research team in home office to young viewers in home schooling.
Read More

The Climate Crisis and Churches' Options for Action: Ecumenical Learning Journey to PIK

05/03/2020 - 32 representatives from several churches took on a leaning journey about climate change and its consequences in Berlin and Potsdam. At the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Wolfgang Lucht shared some insights on Earth system research. The participants' conclusion: The church can play a major role in bridging the gap between knowledge and action and contribute to a different lifestyle through ecological spirituality.
Read More

Ricarda Winkelmann departs on “Expedition Anthropocene“ on Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador

24/02/2020 – Humans are the defining geological force shaping Earth in our current epoch that has been named the Anthropocene. Across disciplinary boundaries, six members of the 'Junge Akademie', the academy of prominent young scientists and artists from German speaking backgrounds, have departed on an expedition on tracing some of human’s impact onto the environment. 200 years after Alexander von Humboldt, they will climb the Ecuadorian volcano Chimborazo in search of humanity’s footprint in different altitudes and vegetation zones. Besides PIK’s Ricarda Winkelmann, a mathematician glaciologist, the scientists involved come from a great variety of disciplinary backgrounds: biology, chemistry, sound ecology, computer science, and medicine.
Read More

2°C ocean warming has been enough to destabilize Antarctica in the past

12/02/2020 - A melting of the Antarctic ice sheets would have far-reaching consequences for sea-level rise and coastal regions around the world. Based on new data from the Antarctic ice, an international team of scientists now reveals how the ice sheet reacted to rising temperatures in the past. Published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their study using data from a blue ice field shows for the first time that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet already proved to be quite unstable during the last warm period 120,000 years ago. The Eemian warm period was the last phase of climate history with global temperatures similar to those that the world is heading towards due to manmade global warming in the coming decades.
Read More

Tipping mechanisms could spark profound societal change towards climate stabilization: new study

21/01/2020 - Limiting global warming to well below 2°C requires a decarbonized world by 2050 at the latest and a corresponding global transformation of the energy and land use systems of societies across the world. To achieve this goal of net-zero carbon by 2050 emissions need to be cut by half every decade from now on. An interdisciplinary team of researchers now explored tipping mechanisms that have the potential to spark rapid yet constructive societal changes towards climate stabilization and overall sustainability. These tipping elements and mechanisms could bring about a transition that is fast enough for meeting the targets of the Paris climate agreement. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the scientists identify six socio-economic tipping elements and related interventions that could bring such a transition to a deep and rapid global decarbonization on its way.
Read More

Feeding the world without wrecking the planet is possible

20/01/2020 - Almost half of current food production is harmful to our planet – causing biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and water stress. But as world population continues to grow, can that last? A study led by researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now suggests a comprehensive solution package for feeding 10 billion people within our planet’s environmental boundaries. Supplying a sufficient and healthy diet for every person whilst keeping our biosphere largely intact will require no less than a technological and socio-cultural U-turn. It includes adopting radically different ways of farming, reduction of food waste, and dietary changes. The study's publication coincides with the World Economic Forum in Davos and the International Green Week in Berlin, the world's biggest food and agriculture fair.
Read More

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.
Read More

Planetary boundaries: Interactions in the Earth system amplify human impacts

16/12/2019 - What we do to one part of our Earth system does not just add to what we do to other parts – transgressing one planetary boundary can amplify human impacts on another one. For the first time, an international team of scientists now quantified some of the planetary-scale interactions in the Earth system. These biophysical interactions have in fact almost doubled direct human impacts on the nine planetary boundaries, from climate change to freshwater use. This insight can now be applied in policy design for safeguarding the livelihoods of generations to come.
Read More

Global food production at risk of simultaneous heat waves across breadbasket regions

09/12/2019 - Certain patterns in the jet stream encircling the Earth can bring simultaneous heatwaves to breadbasket regions responsible for up to a quarter of global food production. Particularly susceptible are Western North America, Western Europe, Western Russia and Ukraine. Extreme weather events of such extent can significantly harm food production and thus make prices soar. In recent years, major food price spikes were associated with social unrest.
Read More

COP25: PIK experts in Madrid

02.12.2019 - "Time for Action": About 25,000 delegates from all over the world are expected to attend the UN Climate Conference COP25 from December 2-13 in Madrid, Spain. "We stand at a critical juncture in our collective efforts to limit dangerous global heating", UN General Secretary António Guterres said at the Opening Ceremony of COP25 in the Spanish Capital. "Millions throughout the world – especially young people – are calling on leaders from all sectors to do more, much more, to address the climate emergency we face. They know we need to get on the right path today, not tomorrow. That means important decisions must be made now," he stressed in his remarks.
Read More