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.


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.

Department The Land in the Earth System


Department The Ocean in the Earth System


Department The Atmosphere in the Earth System

Climate change increases migration at the expense of the poor

A climate game developed by Max Planck researchers shows that global cooperation can be possible – although not without effort

A sure hand at the scientific helm

Reimar Lüst, former President of the Max Planck Society and pioneer of European space research, has died

Clouds from every angle

The EUREC4A field study is aimed at solving one of the great mysteries in relation to climate change

<p>'There could be conflicts and wars'</p>

Ulrike Niemeier from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, on measures that should keep climate change in check, such as geoengineering

“Global warming doesn’t stop when the emissions stop”

Thorsten Mauritsen from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology has worked out how much time we have left to reach the Paris climate goal


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 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.


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.


The unexplained origin of the surface-warming slowdown

2017 Hedemann, C.; Marotzke, J.

Climate Research

From 1998 to 2012, the Earth’s surface warmed more slowly than expected. Many climate scientists explained that this slowdown was caused by the oceans, which drew heat downward, away from the surface. The authors of a new study question this view: variations in the energy radiated from the surface to space could also have caused the slowdown. Furthermore, the amount of energy required to cause a slowdown is smaller than previously thought. It is in fact considerably smaller than the observational uncertainty, which suggests that the true origin of the recent slowdown may never be discovered.


Forest and climate – potentials and side-effects of future afforestation

2016 Pongratz, J.; Sonntag, S.

Climate Research

Reforestation is a widely discussed measure to combat the increase of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Earlier studies inferred from the effects of past land use changes to those of future reforestation. The global model simulations presented here show however that the potential of reforestation to sequester CO2 in a warm, CO2-rich world may be larger than anticipated. Adaptation to climate change continues to be necessary, but climate extremes may be dampened by reforestation.


ICON: A new model for the investigation of the role of small clouds in the global climate system

2015 Giorgetta, Marco(1); Stevens, Bjorn(1); Dipankar, Anurag(1), Adamidis, Panos(2) (1): Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie (2): Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum

Climate Research Earth Sciences

The newly developed ICON atmosphere model features two important improvements compared to older models. Firstly the choice of the non-hydrostatic equations allows to simulate small scale circulations as they occur in convective clouds and their environment. Secondly the numerical methods have been chosen such that even massively parallel supercomputers can be exploited. Both features together provide new perspectives for the research on the dynamics of convective clouds and their interaction with large-scale circulations and the global climate.

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