Health, energy and extreme events in a changing climate

06/07/2016 - Floods, droughts, blackouts of power networks – the potential for risks that can be linked directly or indirectly to public health grows with a changing climate. In a now published special issue of the European Physical Journal, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and other institutions analyze the complex interactions of public health, energy production and climate change. They shed light on the linkages, and also present new methods how these interrelations of different sectors can be further examined.
Health, energy and extreme events in a changing climate
growing percentage of renewable energy in the power system poses a substantial challenge on the power grids. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Jonathan Donges and his team developed a statistical method to analyze time series  of flood events as possible triggers of epidemic outbreaks. This approach could gain importance for future research to estimate the impacts of climate change not only for ecosystems, but also on societies.

With a growing percentage of renewable energy in the power system, the availability of electricity varies, because wind or solar power are not available at a constant level at all times. This poses a substantial challenge on the power grids today already. If big household appliances like washing machines would charge their batteries automatically exactly when the availability in the power grid is best, and if the energy price was coupled to the availability in every second, this could be an effective economic incentive to stabilize the whole system. This idea was explored by a group of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and the Potsdam Institute.

In another study Anton Plietzsch and colleagues analyze frequency stability of power grids to find the optimal combination of short bypasses and as many circuits as possible to avoid blackouts. Sabine Auer et al approached a rather technical question by investigating how much detail is needed ewhen modelling the dynamics of a power grid.

The special edition put together by PIK scientist Jobst Heitzig will be published in the renowned European Physical Journal Special Topics. Most of the studies mentioned above evolved within the joint research project CoNDyNet (Collective Nonlinear Dynamics of Complex Networks), coordinated by Jürgen Kurths, one of PIK´s co-chairs of research domain Transdisciplinary Concepts and Methods. Theoretical and applied scientists and industrial partners work closely together to develop basic criteria for the stability, reliability, risks and market access of future-proof electricity grids. CoNDyNet is part of the federal governments research initiative on power grids.

Link to special edition:

Link to CoNDyNet: