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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Statement on the current California forest fires

12.11.2018 - The California forest fires are currently burning across the State having forced hundreds of thousands of residents to flee their homes, among them also stars like Miley Cyrus, Gerard Butler, Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga. These are probably the worst forest fires in California's history.
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Earth League meets up in New Delhi: Climate Jamboree and Science Circle

08.11.2018 - From weather extremes to sea-level rise and tipping elements - more than 10.000 youths came together with science experts and artists last week in New Delhi for the Climate Jamboree Conference. Johan Rockström, PIK Director Designate, and Stefan Rahmstorf, Chair of PIK research domain Earth System Analysis, were among the key speakers, with lectures on a safe future for humanity on earth and new insights and hot topics from climate science. Organized by Leena Srivastava of TERI School of Advanced Studies, the participative Climate Jamboree with scientific talks, workshops and concerts was the grand finale of a series of events with the aim to empower youth to engage for climate action and sustainable development.
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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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Manifesto by Wolfgang Lucht: "Das Wasser der Nachfolge"

05.10.2018 - We live in the Anthropocene, an era in which mankind as a global, geological force is changing the earth. Climate change, ocean acidification, extinction of species, deforestation and overfishing are just a few symptoms of human influence on our planet. "So what is the churches' opinion on the environmental question?" What do we say as Christians?", asks Wolfgang Lucht, Co-Chair of the Research Domain Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in his manifesto "Das Wasser der Nachfolge". This chapter was published in the recently released German book "Life in the Anthropocene - Christian perspectives for a culture of sustainability" by oekom. His manifesto directly adresses the churches, whose commitment is vital for the necessary transformation to a socially and environmentally sustainable society.
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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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Hurricane Florence threatening the US coast

13/09/2018 - Hurricane Florence is threatening the US coast as it will likely hit North or South Carolina. Last year already brought unusually devastating tropical cyclones.
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Europe’s renewable energy regulation could harm global forests

12/09/2018 - To fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement, which is backed by science, the European Union laudably plans to strongly enhance its renewable energy ambition – but a provision regulating the use of biomass for energy raises great concern among scientists. The new regulation would allow countries, power plants and factories to cut down trees and burn them for power or heat generation and to claim that this fully qualifies as low-carbon renewable energy. Currently Europe has mainly made use of biomass from wood waste and residues for bioenergy generation. But use could now ramp up to levels requiring massive input of stem wood as well, and this would be allowed under the new regulation. In stark contrast to the intentions of the EU, this would in fact also increase European greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate climate change, a team of scientists now argues in a comment published in Nature Communications.
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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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Summer of extremes - PIK experts in the media

07/26/2018 - Everybody seems to be talking about the weather these days, with extreme heat in Germany and Europe, forest fires in Sweden, Greece and California. From Japan to the Arctic - the Northern hemisphere is currently experiencing a heat wave and experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research (PIK) were interviewed by numerous media outlets for an assessment of the current situation in the light of climate change.
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What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today

06/14/2018 - The retreat of the West Antarctic ice masses after the last Ice Age was reversed surprisingly about 10,000 years ago, scientists found. This is in stark contrast to previous assumptions. In fact, it was the shrinking itself that stopped the shrinking: relieved from the weight of the ice, the Earth crust lifted and triggered the re-advance of the ice sheet. However, this mechanism is much too slow to prevent dangerous sea-level rise caused by West Antarctica’s ice-loss in the present and near future. Only rapid greenhouse-gas emission reductions can.
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Heat wave in California and heavy rain in Japan

09/07/2018 - Currently, California is confronted with extreme heat while Japan is hit by heavy rain. Stefan Rahmstorf, Earth System Analysis research domain co-chair at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Professor at the University of Potsdam comments on the issue.
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Better be safe than sorry: economic optimization risks tipping of important Earth system elements

06/15/2018 - Optimizing economic welfare without constraints might put human well-being at risk, a new climate study argues. While being successful in bringing down costs of greenhouse gas reductions for instance, the concept of profit maximization alone does not suffice to avoid the tipping of critical elements in the Earth system which could lead to dramatic changes of our livelihood. The scientists use mathematical experiments to compare economic optimization to the governance concepts of sustainability and the more recent approach of a safe operating space for humanity. All of these turn out to have their benefits and deficits, yet the profit-maximizing approach shows the greatest likelihood of producing outcomes that harm people or the environment.
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PIKturing our future: The young scientists’ visions for the institute

06/05/2018 - Once a year, the doctoral candidates of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) gather to discuss their research and exchange ideas. This year’s "PhD day" aimed at giving young scientists the possibility to think about and discuss their visions, wishes and ideas for the future of the institute. What do young scientists need to be able to perform excellent science? In what areas do they need more support and in what way? How can they interact with society during their work?
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Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning

04/11/2018. The Atlantic overturning – one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards – is weaker today than any time before in more than 1000 years. Sea surface temperature data analysis provides new evidence that this major ocean circulation has slowed down by roughly 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century, according to a study published in the highly renowned journal Nature by an international team of scientists. Human-made climate change is a prime suspect for these worrying observations.
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PIK experts at the intersessional climate conference in Bonn

11/05/2018 - In the run-up to this year´s UN climate conference in Katowice in Poland, about 3000 experts and observers met in Bonn to discuss how to implement the Paris Agreement which is to enter into force in 2020. Two key elements of these “intersessionals” were the progress in advancing the Paris Agreement “rulebook”, and the initial in-person phase of the Talanoa dialogue that was introduced at COP23 last year. Several scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) took part in various meetings and presentations in Bonn.
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Girls'Day: PIK opens up doors and new perspectives to young and female future scientists

26/04/2018 - At this year's Girls'Day, schoolgirls from Berlin and Brandenburg had once again the opportunity to get to know the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and career perspectives in science. About their research on climate change and their work as a researcher at PIK, Levke Caesar and Christina Roolfs reported to the 19 pupils participating. The action day was initiated to open up new career perspectives in mathematical and the natural sciences for girls and young women.
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More than 14.000 Earth scientists meet in Vienna

06/04/2018 - The European Geophysical Union’s (EGU) general assembly in Vienna is one of the world's greatest scientific events – from 8 to 13 April, it attracts more than 14.000 scientists. Numerous experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) give talks and participate in debates. A distinguished role is attributed to Stefan Rahmstorf, co-chair of PIK’s Earth System Analysis department, research domain 1. He has been asked to hold the first-ever EGU public lecture at the Vienna Museum for Natural History: “After Paris: Can we still control the climate crisis?”
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Social and Natural science together: New Co-Directors to lead the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

23/02/2018 - The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is reinventing itself – appointing a twin leadership bringing together natural sciences and social sciences stronger than ever. In late September, the German climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer and the Swedish Earth system scientist Johan Rockström will become directors of the internationally renowned institute which is a member of the Leibniz Association. This was decided on Friday by the institute's Board of Trustees, headed by the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, Research and Culture and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The retirement of the founding director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber this autumn after a quarter of a century as the head of the institute marks the beginning of a new era in Potsdam.
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PIK Research Days: “Keep digging in your pockets”

02/23/2018 - Scientists and staff of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) gathered this week for their annual roadshow of scientific achievements and discussions of future projects. Climate negotiations, climate migration, public health, sea-level legacy, jet streams, ice losses at Antarctica, carbon pricing – these were just some of the topics presented by PIK’s four research domains. This year’s research days focused in particular on the upcoming 1.5°C IPCC special report as well as on global change, big data and digitalization.
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Sea-level legacy: 20cm more rise by 2300 for each 5-year delay in peaking emissions

02/20/2018 - Peaking global CO2 emissions as soon as possible is crucial for limiting the risks of sea-level rise, even if global warming is limited to well below 2°C. A study now published in the journal Nature Communications analyzes for the first time the sea-level legacy until 2300 within the constraints of the Paris Agreement. Their central projections indicate global sea-level rise between 0.7m and 1.2m until 2300 with Paris put fully into practice. As emissions in the second half of this century are already outlined by the Paris goals, the variations in greenhouse-gas emissions before 2050 will be the major leverage for future sea levels. The researchers find that each five year delay in peaking global CO2 emissions will likely increase median sea-level rise estimates for 2300 by 20 centimeters.
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EU commissioner Stylianides visits PIK

01/24/2018 - The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, visited the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) together with Director-General Monique Pariat and members of cabinet. He was interested in the latest climate research and particularly in prevention measures for the increasing risks of floods and forest fires due to climate change.
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FAZ-Blog: PIK climate scientists on expedition to the Antarctic

01/23/2017 - The researchers Ricarda Winkelmann and Ronja Reese from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) recently departed for their expedition to Antarctica with the research vessel "Polarstern" of the Alfred Wegener Institute. Over the next few weeks, they will report regularly on their expedition, ice and climate change in a blog on FAZ.net. Usually, the two mathematicians at PIK work with numerical models and computer simulations. In the next few weeks, however, they will be collecting data on the Antarctic sea ice to learn more about the sensitivity of the gigantic ice masses of the ice continent.
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Biomass plantations not compatible with planetary boundaries

01/22/2018 - Planting trees or grasses on a grand scale in plantations to extract CO2 from the atmosphere - this could make a long-term contribution to climate protection, but it would push the planet beyond ecological limits in other dimensions. A new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in the journal Nature Climate Change now for the first time establishes a connection between ambitious international climate objectives and the more comprehensive concept of planetary boundaries. If biomass plantations in which plants bind carbon dioxide during growth are massively expanded, this would entail enormous risks for areas that are already stressed, such as biodiversity, biogeochemical flows, water resources and land use. According to the study, biomass as a means to capture and store CO2 can therefore only make a limited contribution. In order to stabilize the climate, a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of coal, oil and gas is crucial.
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PIK scientists at the Chaos Communication Congress 34C3

29/12/2017 - For four days between Christmas and New Year´s, thousands of hackers, experts and artists meet every year to exchange news and views and learn about new technological developments and tools. The 34th Chaos Communication Congress (34C3) takes place in Leipzig this year, the organizers expect more than 13.000 participants. Science is represented as well, this year also by experts of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) - climate change is one of this year´s main themes.
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Climate and public health: Leopoldina Dialogue in Potsdam

12/05/2017 - Climate change related risks for public health are one of the most important challenges of today. However, the science communities on both sides of the fence have so far not sufficiently interacted to reflect the critical nexus of climate change and health. Taking the first mover advantage, a workshop of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now brought together renowned scientists from climate sciences, health and medicine, psychology, environmental sciences, social sciences and economics. They will develop a publication offering stakeholder and decision-makers orientation on public health and climate policy.
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Environment Council SRU: steering the transport sector in a new direction

23.11.2017 - The German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) issued a special report promoting a quota for electric cars. At least 25 percent of all new cars and light commercial vehicles should be equipped with an electric drive by 2025. With regard to the additional electricity demand by the transport sector, an accelerated expansion of renewable energies is necessary according to the report. Moreover, during the new legislative period the end of the diesel privilege should be initiated. The report also makes proposals for the further development of route-dependent car and truck toll systems. The transport sector is currently responsible for about one-fifth of Germany's greenhouse gas emissions.
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Many PIK scientists at COP23 in Bonn

03/11/2017 - A number of experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) will take part in the climate summit COP23, taking place from November 6-17 in Bonn and presided by Fiji. PIK director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber will present the ten things you need to know about climate change, together with UNFCCC´s Patricia Espinosa, for example. At a side event with experts from the ETH Zürich, the ACT Alliance and Bread for the World, PIK´s chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer will discuss how to implement equity in the framework of the Paris Agreement.
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“We need you”: UN climate chief to Potsdam climate scientists

10/13/2017 - Hundreds of millions of people will be affected by climate change impacts and their implications for health or migration already within the next few decades, sectors that so far often get overlooked in this context. This is one of the insights of the Impacts World Conference organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany this week. About 500 scientists from 67 countries were gathering at the conference with the title “Counting the true costs of climate change” to push climate impact research to the next level by better integrating socio-economic factors. At the same time, the institute celebrated its 25th anniversary hosting this meeting of the global impacts research community, in the spirit of its mission followed for a quarter century: further advancing scientific progress and communicating insights to stakeholders.
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Formation of coal almost turned our planet into a snowball

2017/10/10 - While burning coal today causes Earth to overheat, about 300 million years ago the formation of that same coal brought our planet close to global glaciation. For the first time, scientists show the massive effect in a study published in the renowned Proceedings of the US Academy of Sciences. When trees in vast forests died during a time called the Carboniferous and the Permian, the carbon dioxide (CO2) they took up from the atmosphere while growing got buried; the plants’ debris over time formed most of the coal that today is used as fossil fuel. Consequently, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere sank drastically and Earth cooled down to a degree it narrowly escaped what scientists call a ‘snowball state’.
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