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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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Shrinking Home Lands: How Island and Archipelagic States address climate migration

09/04/2020 – Small Island and archipelagic States are amongst those who feel climate change impacts the earliest and the severest. Their livelihoods at risk, people face the decision to move to safer grounds. A new report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the German Cooperation agency GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) has now scrutinised policy responses by the States to migration in the context of climate change and provides policy recommendations.
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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.
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The Antarctica Factor: model uncertainties reveal upcoming sea level risk

Sea level rise due to ice loss in Antarctica could become a major risk for coastal protection even in the near term, scientists say. Within this century already, due to Antarctica alone global sea level might rise up to three times as much as it did in the last century. This is a finding of an exceptionally comprehensive comparison of state-of-the-art computer models from around the world.
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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.
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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.
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Climate tipping points – too risky to bet against

28/11/2019 - From the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice sheets to coral reefs or the Amazon rainforest – a number of critical elements in the Earth system could be more likely to tip than was previously thought, a group of leading scientists warns in in the highly renowned journal Nature. Evidence is mounting that these events are also more interconnected, which could eventually lead to domino effects. A possible tipping cascade of irreversible changes might put the livelihoods of people around the world at risk and marks a state of planetary emergency, the authors argue in their comment.
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Just 15 years of post-Paris emissions to lock in 20 cm of sea level rise in 2300: study

5.11.2019 - Unless governments significantly scale up their emission reduction efforts, the 15 years’ worth of emissions released under their current Paris Agreement pledges alone would cause 20 cm of sea-level rise over the longer term, according to new research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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Sea level rise: West Antarctic ice collapse may be prevented by snowing ocean water onto it

18/07/2019 - The ice sheet covering West Antarctica is at risk of sliding off into the ocean. While further ice-sheet destabilisation in other parts of the continent may be limited by a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the slow, yet inexorable loss of West Antarctic ice is likely to continue even after climate warming is stabilised. A collapse might take hundreds of years but will raise sea levels worldwide by more than three meters. A team of researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is now scrutinising a daring way of stabilising the ice sheet: Generating trillions of tons of additional snowfall by pumping ocean water onto the glaciers and distributing it with snow canons. This would mean unprecedented engineering efforts and a substantial environmental hazard in one of the world’s last pristine regions – to prevent long-term sea level rise for some of the world’s most densely populated areas along coastlines from the US to China.
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Initiated instability in West Antarctica might be the fastest on the continent

13/06/2019 - All around the Antarctic coastline there are ice sheet instabilities waiting to be triggered. If this happens ice flows inexorably into the ocean and raises sea levels worldwide. The one region where instability likely has already been initiated by a warming of the ocean is probably the region which collapses faster than any other, find scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Even though the rapid ice loss takes decades to unfold and centuries to complete, the speed of ice loss from Antarctica is already a major driver of global sea level rise. It will affect hundreds of millions of people living near the world’s coastlines, from Miami to Shanghai.
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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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More CO2 than ever before in 3 million years, shows unprecedented computer simulation

03/04/2019 - CO2 greenhouse gas amounts in the atmosphere are likely higher today than ever before in the past 3 million years. For the first time, a team of scientists succeeded to do a computer simulation that fits ocean floor sediment data of climate evolution over this period of time. Ice age onset, hence the start of the glacial cycles from cold to warm and back, the study reveals, was mainly triggered by a decrease of CO2-levels. Yet today, it is the increase of greenhouse gases due to the burning of fossil fuels that is fundamentally changing our planet, the analysis further confirms. Global mean temperatures never exceeded the preindustrial levels by more than 2 degrees Celsius in the past 3 million years, the study shows – while current climate policy inaction, if continued, would exceed the 2 degrees limit already in the next 50 years.
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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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Science to COP25: Must Knows for Climate Negotiators

06/12/2019 – The pace of contemporary rise in greenhouse gas concentrations is unprecedented in climate history over the past 66 million years and weather extremes are the “new normal,” according to some of the latest findings in climate science compiled in an easy-to-read guide for negotiators, policymakers, and media for the COP25 world climate summit. PIK Director Johan Rockström and colleagues from Future Earth and the Earth League today presented the “10 New Insights in Climate Science” report to UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at the meeting in the Spanish capital Madrid.
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Ricarda Winkelmann wins academics' young scientist award

06/12/2018 - Ricarda Winkelmann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has been honoured as this year's Young Scientist of the Year by 'academics' by ZEIT publishing group. Winkelmann was awarded due to her outstanding and groundbreaking research and publication achievements in researching the climate system and the risks of climate change. She is junior professor for Climate System Analysis at the University of Potsdam and scientist at PIK in research domain Earth System Analysis. She heads the Leibniz project "DominoES - Domino Effects in the Earth System" as well as the PIK working group on ice sheet dynamics.
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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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"Which Future?!" and "Schimmelreiter": Climate research on stage

02/10/2018 - What if Italy would exit the Euro and the currency would collapse? What if there were no money at the ATMs, due to a new banking crisis? What if there were a migration crisis? What if there were sudden and extreme climate changes? Questions like theses are discussed in the new play "Let Them Eat Money. Welche Zukunft?!" (Which Future?!) that just premiered at the Deutsche Theater in Berlin.
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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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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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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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Potsdam-China and back: "When climate projections return home"

02/05/2018 - China's Guanting region is threatened by water scarcity - how water and land can be used sustainably was explored over several years by a German-Chinese team headed by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Now the scientists published a book on their findings. The researchers applied computer simulations on climate change and water cycles in Brandenburg to the Guanting region. They thereby gained valuable new methodological insights for refining their models - and now bring this back to Germany: a learning process across continents.
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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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Detecting abrupt transitions – be it in ocean heat or financial markets

01/03/2018 - From stock indices to sea surface temperatures, a lot of relevant data comes in the form of time series. Reliable detection of abrupt transitions such as a downswing of stock values or water warming during an El Niño event in the Pacific is obviously important, but most analyses fail to take into account the uncertainties in the data. The challenge is to distinguish sudden changes while being aware of the underlying uncertainties. Although there are a number of change point detection methods, scientists now propose for the first time an approach that accurately represents the time series uncertainties and thus provide a more robust analysis.
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