Press Release

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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Investigation of Mesozoic climate trends and sensitivities

What has driven climate through the Mesozoic era, the longest greenhouse period in the history of life on Earth? This question is addressed in a recent study by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the University of Vienna.
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Giorgia di Capua has successfully completed her doctoral thesis on the Indian monsoon

Giorgia di Capua has completed her research on "The Indian summer monsoon and its interaction with the mid-latitude circulation". The Indian summer monsoon (ISM) circulation system with its seasonal abundant rainfall is crucial for economy, society and natural ecosystems of the Indian peninsula. Extreme states of the ISM can lead to droughts or floodings, which can have severe impacts on Indian society. The understanding of the spatial-temporal dynamics and the influence of atmospheric teleconnections is fundamental for improving both seasonal and long-term climatological forecasts of the ISM and of summer mid-latitude circulation patterns.
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News

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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News

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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Press Release

Gulf Stream System at its weakest in over a millennium

02/25/2021 - Never before in over 1000 years the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), also known as Gulf Stream System, has been as weak as in the last decades. This is the result of a new study by scientists from Ireland, Britain and Germany. The researchers compiled so-called proxy data – taken mainly from natural archives like ocean sediments or ice cores – reaching back many hundreds of years to reconstruct the flow history of the AMOC. They found consistent evidence that its slowdown in the 20th century is unprecedented in the past millennium – it is likely linked to human-caused climate change. The giant ocean circulation is relevant for weather patterns in Europe and regional sea-levels in the US; its slowdown is also associated with an observed ‘cold blob’ in the northern Atlantic.
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News

Winter weather, a polar front – and areas of drought: PIK's assessment of the current weather situation.

02/12/2021 - In January and February of 2021, parts of Europe, America and also Germany have experienced partly extreme winter weather. Nevertheless, there are widespread large areas of drought especially in Germany - PIK researchers Stephan Rahmstorf and Fred Hattermann on current climate-related weather changes.
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News

“Planetary Boundary Simulator”: New initiative aims to quantify the interactions between key components of the Earth system

02/08/2021 - To gather further insight into the processes that determine Earth's resilience against unprecedented change, the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has launched a new pilot project: The Potsdam Earth Model Planetary Boundaries Simulator (POEM-PBSim) will for the first time analyze the impacts of the interaction of planetary boundaries in the Earth System – and simulate the changes it is undergoing.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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Summer extremes of 2018 linked to stalled giant waves in jet stream

29/04/2019 - Record breaking heatwaves and droughts in North America and Western Europe, torrential rainfalls and floods in South-East Europe and Japan - the summer of 2018 brought a series of extreme weather events that occurred almost simultaneously around the Northern Hemisphere in June and July. These extremes had something in common, a new study by an international team of climate researchers now finds: the events were connected by a newly identified pattern of the jet stream encircling the Earth. The jet stream formed a stalled wave pattern in the atmosphere which made weather conditions more persistent and thus extreme in the affected regions. The same pattern also occurred during European heat waves in 2015, 2006 and 2003, which rank among the most extreme heatwaves ever recorded. In recent years, the scientists observed a clear increase of these patterns.
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Dutch royal couple visits Telegrafenberg

05/22/2019 - King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited the Albert Einstein Science Park on Potsdam's Telegrafenberg during their stay in the State of Brandenburg today. In the presence of Brandenburgs Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke and Minister of Science Martina Münch, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the GeoResearchCenter (GFZ) signed cooperation agreements with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and TU Delft. The agreements are on geothermal research and research on weather extremes.
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The Long Night of the Sciences at PIK

20/05/2019 - In a few weeks, over 60 scientific institutions will be opening their doors to the public all across Berlin and Potsdam-Telegrafenberg. On June 15th from 17-24h, events will cover the natural sciences, engineering, social and cultural studies, medicine and much more. Whether it’s in lectures, science shows or in hands-on experiments, there is much to discover and to learn at the Long Night of the Sciences. Here is some information on the programme at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK):
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Girls'Day: Students explore the world of climate science at PIK

10/04/2019 – On Girls'Day – Future Prospects for Girls – on March 28th, 2019 around 100,000 girls across the country left stereotypes behind to get to know professions and academic disciplines in which women are still underrepresented. Among them several young students who wanted to learn more about climate science and working as a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
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Marlene Kretschmer wins Köppen-Preis for her outstanding dissertation on polar vortex

24.01.2019 - Marlene Kretschmer from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), has been awarded the 2018 Wladimir Peter Köppen Prize for her remarkable dissertation completed at PIK and the University of Potsdam. Its “importance for climate research, in terms of its innovativeness and relevance, is outstanding”, the jury of the Hamburg-based Cluster of Excellence CliSAP praised the work.
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Ranking: the climate papers most featured in online media

12/01/2019 - Scientific publications from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research scored well in online and social media. The UK online news outlet Carbon Brief just published an interesting ranking based on Altmetric that - while it is certainly not comprehensive since the data base is not comprehensive - gives some indications which papers in 2018 have been most referred to in the public. Of course, the list most prominently features the "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene" (or 'Hothouse Earth') paper by, amongst others, PIK's Johan Rockström, Jonathan Donges, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber published in PNAS. Carbon Brief calls it the climate science paper that scored top in media. Looking at all scientific publications in 2018 - hence beyond the field of climate research - it still is the fifth most talked-about of all journal papers, which is enormous.
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Record-wet and record-dry months increased in regions worldwide: climate change drives rainfall extremes

12.12.2018 - More and more rainfall extremes are observed in regions around the globe – triggering both wet and dry records, a new study shows. Yet there are big differences between regions: The central and Eastern US, northern Europe and northern Asia have experienced heavy rainfall events that have led to severe floods in recent past. In contrast, most African regions have seen an increased frequency of months with a lack of rain. The study is the first to systematically analyze and quantify changes in record-breaking monthly rainfall events from all over the globe, based on data from roughly 50,000 weather stations worldwide. Climate change from fossil fuel greenhouse gases has long been expected to disturb rainfall patterns.
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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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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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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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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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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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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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Investigating teleconnections of weather extremes: GOTHAM Summer School

09/22/2017 - To investigate teleconnections and their role in causing extreme weather events, twenty-five young scientists from all over the world have been gathering this week at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Firstly, when the weather is changing in one place on Earth, this can influence rain or wind or temperatures in another distant place. Investigating this issue using cutting-edge mathematics is front and centre at this year’s GOTHAM summer school – Globally Observed Teleconnections and their role and representation in Hierarchies of Atmospheric Models.
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Winter cold extremes linked to high-altitude polar vortex weakening

09/22/2017 - When the strong winds that circle the Arctic slacken, cold polar air can escape and cause extreme winter chills in parts of the Northern hemisphere. A new study finds that these weak states have become more persistent over the past four decades and can be linked to cold winters in Russia and Europe. It is the first to show that changes in winds high up in the stratosphere substantially contributed to the observed winter cooling trend in northern Eurasia. While it is still a subject of research how the Arctic under climate change impacts the rest of the world, this study lends further support that a changing Arctic impacts the weather across large swaths of the Northern Hemisphere population centers.
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Weather extremes: Humans likely influence giant airstreams

03/27/2017 - The increase of devastating weather extremes in summer is likely linked to human-made climate change, mounting evidence shows. Giant airstreams are circling the Earth, waving up and down between the Arctic and the tropics. These planetary waves transport heat and moisture. When these planetary waves stall, droughts or floods can occur. Warming caused by greenhouse-gases from fossil fuels creates favorable conditions for such events, an international team of scientists now finds.
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How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs

2017/01/13 - 66 million years ago, the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs started the ascent of the mammals, ultimately resulting in humankind’s reign on Earth. Climate scientists now reconstructed how tiny droplets of sulfuric acid formed high up in the air after the well-known impact of a large asteroid and blocking the sunlight for several years, had a profound influence on life on Earth. Plants died, and death spread through the food web. Previous theories focused on the shorter-lived dust ejected by the impact. The new computer simulations show that the droplets resulted in long-lasting cooling, a likely contributor to the death of land-living dinosaurs. An additional kill mechanism might have been a vigorous mixing of the oceans, caused by the surface cooling, severely disturbing marine ecosystems.
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