Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

Max­Planck­Research Magazine

Issue 2018

MaxPlanckResearch 2/2018

Climate Slashing

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.

Issue 2016

MaxPlanckResearch 2/2016

Thaw in the Climate Model

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.

Issue 2015

MaxPlanckResearch - 2/2015

… and now for tomorrow’s climate
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.

MaxPlanckResearch - 1/2015

The All-in-One Climate Package
Global warming is changing the world – environmentally, economically and politically. Climate service providers seek to help decision makers respond appropriately to this
multifaceted change. Our authors were significantly involved in setting up the Climate Service Center in Hamburg. Here they describe the work these kinds of institutions do and the challenges they face when it comes to communicating their information.
Issue 2014


On Thin Ice
White caps above and below – it goes without saying that these are part of our image of the blue planet. But for how much longer? In the case of the North Pole, at least, whose cover consists entirely of sea ice, it is an essential question. After all, nowhere in the world is climate change as visible as it is in the Arctic. Never before, since reliable records have been available, was the September minimum – the expansion of the Arctic Sea ice at the end of the summer – as low as it was in 2012. The Arctic ice is not only an indicator of climate change, but also an important factor in the climate system: the smaller the ice areas become in the Arctic summer, the less sunlight is reflected and the more is absorbed by the ice-free ocean. In winter, the ice insulates the relatively warm water from the much colder air; without this “cap,” the ocean would release gigantic volumes of heat into the atmosphere. The ice cover is therefore extremely important for the temperatures at the North Pole. Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg would like to explain the role of the sea ice, its complex internal structure, and thus also the conditions necessary for its formation and stability. To this end, he and his team measure, among other things, the thickness of the ice on the ice floes and its composition of pockets of freshwater ice, brine and gas. All of the data is included in complex numerical simulations. The most important discovery to date: Contrary to what was originally feared, there doesn’t appear to be any tipping point in the climate system, after which it would be impossible to prevent the complete loss of the Arctic ice cap. According to the model calculations, the state of the sea ice is closely related to the prevailing climate conditions at all times. This also means that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the current rate, then by the end of the century, the Arctic will be completely free of ice in September at the latest.
Issue 2013

MaxPlanckResearch 4/2013

The Perpetual Pump
The hydrological cycle tirelessly distributes water between land, ocean, atmosphere and cryosphere. Stefan Hagemann and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg study the exact details of how this happens. They investigate the various feedback mechanisms between wetlands, artificial irrigation, permafrost and climate.

MaxPlanckResearch 3/2013

When the Air Turns the Oceans Sour
Human society has begun an ominous large-scale experiment, the full consequences of which will not be foreseeable for some time yet. Massive emissions of man-made carbon dioxide are heating up the Earth. But that’s not all: the increased concentration of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is also acidifying the oceans. Tatiana Ilyina and her staff at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg are researching the consequences this could have.
Issue 2012

MaxPlanckResearch 4/2012

The Power of Flames
Fire has existed on earth ever since land plants colonized the continents. To date, however, surprisingly little is known about the role that fire plays in the global climate system – even though vegetation fires have always influenced the climate with their emissions. Silvia Kloster from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is looking to close this gap in our knowledge. She is researching the complex relationship between fire and climate. Humans also play a key role in this closely woven web.

MaxPlanckResearch 2/2012

Climate Memory
A gigantic heat pump is at work in the Atlantic Ocean, pushing tropical waters north and supplying Europe with a pleasantly warm climate. Jochem Marotzke, Director at Hamburg’s Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, analyzed this current, laying the foundation for an improved climate model.

MaxPlanckResearch 1/2012

The Greening Desert
Climate change will very likely result in southern Europe becoming much drier. Ironically, however, significant global warming could lead to an increase of vegetation in the Sahara – as has frequently occurred in the past.
Issue 2011

MPR 4 /2011

Traveling in Time through Climate History
When climatologists look into the past, they intend to learn for the future. Victor Brovkin and his team at Hamburg’s Max Planck Institute for Meteorology reconstruct historical climate changes and analyze what processes reinforce those changes. Their discoveries are helping to predict the future of the Blue Planet.

MPR 1 /2011

The Fate of the Big Rain
Climate change affects people both globally and regionally. Pankaj Kumar, for example, who works at the Climate Service Center and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, is investigating the interplay of dry season and monsoon in India. He wants to discover the future outlook for water resource availability on the subcontinent. Aiding him in this quest is the REMO software program developed by Daniela Jacob and her team at the Hamburg-based institute.

MPR 1 /2011

Going Head to Head with Winds and Clouds
Personal Portrait: Thorsten Mauritsen
Issue 2010

MPR 1 /2010

Agriculture Is Plowing Up the Climate
Through agriculture and livestock farming, mankind had an impact on the climate even before the Industrial Revolution, albeit to a much smaller extent than today.
Issue 2008

MPR 3 /2008

Dirk Notz
There are many reasons why Dirk Notz, who was recently appointed head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, loves all questions relating to climate – one of them being the nature experience he gains on his adventure-packed expeditions to the Arctic.
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