Helmholtz Climate Inititative Regional Climate Change
Regional impacts of climate change become focus of attention
Interactions between atmosphere, ice, ocean and land surface have always influenced the climate on the Earth. In order to better describe the related exchange processes and long-term developments in the climate system, global climate models have successfully contributed to gaining an initial understanding of large-scale natural climate fluctuations in the past years. However, many processes that influence the climate on different temporal and spatial scales have yet to be investigated extensively.
At present there is broad agreement in the scientific community that, with a high degree of probability, the current warming of the Earth (Fig. 1) is primarily attributable to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and altered land use. However, the specific impacts on individual regions have not been well understood thus far. There is not sufficient scientific evidence, for example, to determine whether climate change is the cause of drier summers or wetter winters in a certain region. For agricultural use, however, this is the decisive question. By the same token detailed scenarios regarding the rise in global sea level, for instance, are important for political and economic decision-making processes in order to be able to adapt coastal protection measures accordingly.
To explore this and other topics and be in a position to make more precise statements, eight research centres of the Helmholtz Association have joined to form the Helmholtz Network Regional Climate Change REKLIM (Fig.2). The spectrum of research topics ranges from regional climate modelling of the Earth system, observation programmes in the Arctic and in Europe as well as investigation of the contribution of chemical processes in the atmosphere all the way to analysis of extreme weather events, such as hail, storms, floods and drought. They include questions concerning socio-economic consequences, management of climate influences and development of adaptation strategies.