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SPECIAL: Coal exit benefits outweigh its costs

Phasing out coal yields global net saving effect: Lignite-fired power plants in Germany. Photo: iStock. Coal combustion is not only the single most important source of CO2, accounting for more than a third of global emissions, but also a major contributor to detrimental effects on public health and biodiversity. Yet, globally phasing out coal remains one of the hardest political nuts to crack. New computer simulations by an international team of researchers are now providing robust economic arguments for why it is worth the effort: For once, their simulations show that the world cannot stay below the 2 degrees limit if we continue to burn coal. Second, the benefits of phasing out coal clearly outweigh the costs. Third, those benefits occur mostly locally and short-term, which make them useful for policy makers. Read more...

Climate change in Antarctica: Natural temperature variability underestimated - Cold spell superimposes man-made warming

Climate change in Antarctica: Natural temperature variability underestimated - Cold spell superimposes man-made warming

04/16/2015 - The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the tipping elements in the climate system and hence of vital importance for our planet’s future under man-made climate change. Even a partial melting of the enormous ice masses of Antarctica would raise sea-levels substantially. Therefore it is of utmost importance to provide sound knowledge on the extent of anthropogenic warming of the ice-covered continent. A new analysis by German physicists shows that the uncertainties in the temperature trends over Antarctica are larger than previously estimated. “So far it seemed there were hardly any major natural temperature fluctuations in Antarctica, so almost every rise in temperature was attributed to human influence,” says Armin Bunde of Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU). “Global warming as a result of our greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels is a fact. However, the human influence on the warming of West Antarctica is much smaller than previously thought. The warming of East Antarctica up to now can even be explained by natural variability alone.” The results of their study are now published in the journal Climate Dynamics.

Climate change in Antarctica: Natural temperature variability underestimated - Cold spell superimposes man-made warming - Read More…

Top marks for PIK: Senate of the Leibniz Association confirms excellence

Top marks for PIK: Senate of the Leibniz Association confirms excellence

03/24/2015 - The senate of the Leibniz Association - an organisation uniting more than 80 scientific institutions - issued a statement on Monday which brings the evaluation of PIK to a successful conclusion. The research results of the institute as a whole were rated “outstanding”. The rating is based on a review carried out by a team of top international researchers, which takes place only once every seven years. The reviewers judged that PIK has developed into a globally leading institute for climate science. As well as its achievements in research, the institute's important role in scientific policy advice was praised.

Top marks for PIK: Senate of the Leibniz Association confirms excellence - Read More…

Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

03/24/2015 - The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been weaker than ever before in the last century, or even in the last millennium. The gradual but accelerating melting of the Greenland ice-sheet, caused by man-made global warming, is a possible major contributor to the slowdown. Further weakening could impact marine ecosystems and sea level as well as weather systems in the US and Europe.

Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today - Read More…

Unprecedented early warning of El Niño succeeds

Unprecedented early warning of El Niño succeeds

03/19/2015 - The current El Niño event has been predicted by an international team of scientists more than one year ago – earlier than ever before. This breakthrough in forecasting the most important phenomenon of natural climate variability has been enabled by novel approach of complex networks analysis of atmospheric temperature data from the Pacific. Such forecast can help farmers in Brazil, Australia or India to prepare and for instance seed the right crops. In an unusual move, the scientists had published their unprecedented early warning early on – fully aware of the reputational risks.

Unprecedented early warning of El Niño succeeds - Read More…

Earth-Docs wanted: a new kind of research position

Earth-Docs wanted: a new kind of research position

03/18/2015 - The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is offering a new kind of research position for outstanding young scientists: they can become an Earth-Doc as part of an international research team working across research institutions and disciplines. The state-of-the-art programme has been launched by the Earth League, an international alliance of 17 leading scientists and institutions, co-founded by PIK. Applicants for the new position focusing on the role of social agents in Earth system dynamics should have a background in global sustainability and modelling.

Earth-Docs wanted: a new kind of research position - Read More…

Global warming brings more snow to Antarctica

Global warming brings more snow to Antarctica

03/17/2015 - Although it sounds paradoxical, rising temperatures might result in more snowfall in Antarctica. Each degree of regional warming could increase snowfall on the ice continent by about 5 percent, an international team of scientists led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research now quantified. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, their work builds on high-quality ice-core data and fundamental laws of physics captured in global and regional climate model simulations. The results provide a missing link for future projections of Antarctica’s critical contribution to sea-level rise. However, the increase in snowfall will not save Antarctica from losing ice, since a lot of the added ice is transported out into the ocean by its own weight.

Global warming brings more snow to Antarctica - Read More…

Summer storm weakening leads to more persistent heat extremes

Summer storm weakening leads to more persistent heat extremes

03/12/2015 - Storm activity in large parts of the US, Europe and Russia significantly calmed down during summers over the past decades, but this is no good news. The weakening of strong winds associated with the jetstream and weather systems prolongs and hence intensifies heat extremes like the one in Russia in 2010 which caused devastating crop failures and wildfires. This is shown in a study to be published in the renowned journal Science by a team of researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. They link the findings to changes in the Arctic caused by man-made global warming.

Summer storm weakening leads to more persistent heat extremes - Read More…

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