Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

Concerns that human activity was contributing to climate change and mankind's fragmentary knowledge of climate dynamics led to the foundation of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg in 1975. Since then, scientists at the Institute have been studying how physical, chemical and biological processes and human behaviour contribute to global and regional climate changes. The scientists develop numerical models and measurement methods to explain the natural variability of the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere, and to assess the influence of land use changes, industrial development, urbanisation and other human influences. Together with the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, they strive to provide a better understanding of the chemical and biological factors that determine the concentrations of greenhouse and other trace gases in the atmosphere, and how they interact with the terrestrial and marine biospheres.

Contact

Bundesstr. 53
20146 Hamburg
Phone: +49 40 41173-0
Fax: +49 40 41173-298

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Earth System Modelling

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2023 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 12 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year

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Illustration to symbolise how the melting of ice sheets leads to a rise in sea level. The pictures shows ice sheets, in white, against a turquoise background. On the top left corner, there is a stylised sun, emanating heat. On the bottom left, there are three stylised snowflakes. To the left of the picture there is a scale from 50m to -20m. The word "Tipping point" is written vertically across the image on the left hand side.

Today, ice sheets cover an area that is almost as large as South America. Even though this equals only about three percent of the Earth’s surface, they play, similar to Arctic sea ice, a major role for the climate. In order to investigate ice sheets and their interaction with the climate, we are developing a climate model in which the extent of the ice sheets changes over time. Such changes and interactions have so far been insufficiently represented in conventional climate models.

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The prizes to Klaus Hasselmann and Benjamin List will be awarded this year at the Harnack House / Livestream on 7 December from 6 p.m.

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The statistical model with which global warming can be attributed to increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere was developed by former Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Klaus Hasselmann, who will be receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 for his work.

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Klaus Hasselmann, founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, receives the Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 together with Syukuro Manabe (USA) and Giorgio Parisi (Italy)

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Risky Cooling

MaxPlanckResearch 3/2020

Environment & Climate

Volcanoes are sources of ideas. When they erupt, they emit large amounts of sulfur dioxide, cooling the climate. This has prompted experts to discuss whether geoengineering involving the targeted release of the gas could reduce global warming. Ulrike Niemeier from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg is investigating the feasibility of the idea and the dangers it might entail.

Theresa Lang from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology spent around two weeks on the Caribbean island of Barbados for the cloud research project EUREC4A. She talks about weather balloons, friendly island inhabitants and an unexpected highlight.

Public debates on global warming focus on one main cause: CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. But humankind is also changing the climate by clearing forests and through farming, forestry and animal husbandry. Together with her Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Julia Pongratz is investigating the consequences of these activities for the climate – and how these interventions could be used to counter global climate change.

Nowhere does climate change make its presence felt more strongly than in the Arctic. The volume of sea ice there has fallen drastically in recent decades. Climate models have been far from accurate in conveying the full extent of this loss. This is set to change now – not least because Dirk Notz and his research group at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg are constantly improving their understanding of the processes that influence the formation and melting of sea ice.

What will the Earth’s climate be like 10 or 15 years from now? Researchers have yet to find a satisfactory answer to this question – especially as random changes that occur in such medium-term periods play a significant role. Natural fluctuations are probably also the reason why global temperatures have hardly risen at all in the past 15 years. Jochem Marotzke from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg and his colleagues all across Germany are working intensively on a system designed to generate reliable forecasts for the coming years.

The role of ice sheets for the climate 

2022 Marie-Luise Kapsch; Clemens Schannwell

Climate Research Earth Sciences

Today, ice sheets cover an area that is almost as large as South America. Even though this equals only about three percent of the Earth’s surface, they play, similar to Arctic sea ice, a major role for the climate. In order to investigate ice sheets and their interaction with the climate, we are developing a climate model in which the extent of the ice sheets changes over time. Such changes and interactions have so far been insufficiently represented in conventional climate models. 

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EUREC4A - a field experiment

2021 Hirsch, Lutz; Stevens, Bjorn

Climate Research Earth Sciences

In January and February 2020, the international measurement campaign EUREC4A in the trade wind region took place on and around the Caribbean island of Barbados under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg and the Laboratoire Météorologique Dynamique/CNRS in Paris. IIts aim was to understand how the trade wind clouds react to climate warming and possibly contribute to it. 

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A leap forward in closing the marine carbon budget from observations

2020 Landschützer, Peter; Keppler, Lydia

Climate Research Earth Sciences

The ocean plays a crucial role in the global carbon cycle by absorbing the equivalent of 23 percent of all annual CO2 emissions, averaged over the past decade, created by human activities. New observation-based estimates, reconstructed using novel neural network methods, reveal however substantial vacillations in the CO2 uptake on interannual through decadal. The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in the observed fluctuations.

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The mystery of the end of the green Sahara

2019 Anne Dallmeyer, Martin Claußen

Climate Research Earth Sciences

With the Earth System Model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology we have calculated the changes in the global climate system during the last 8000 years in a spatially detailed representation. This enabled us to solve part of the mystery about the end of the green Sahara. Reconstructions show a complex structure. In our simulation, the end of the humid phase is determined not only by the retreat of the monsoon but also by the change in the path of extratropical troughs. When their interplay broke up about 4000 years ago, the precipitation and vegetation in the Western Sahara rapidly decreased.

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When global climate models are able to differentiate between an elephant and a big mouse

2018 Hohenegger, C.; Stevens, B.; Kornblueh, L.; Brueck, M.; Röber, N.

Climate Research Earth Sciences

Eighty-three million points are needed to represent the atmospheric state every 2.5 km on Earth. Only such a grid spacing allows climate modelers to represent in their models the diversity of clouds, their small-scale details and their unique shapes which, at times, may remember elephants and, at other times, big mice. But are so many details that cannot be captured by current state-of-the-art climate models really necessary? In the following the authors present the results of an intercomparison exercise where, for the first time, eight of these next-generation climate models were run.

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