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Antarctica’s Delicate Face

A new map reveals the landforms hidden beneath the ice in unprecedented detail. This will support more accurate forecasts concerning the future of the glaciers and sea-level rise.

[12. December 2019] 

When climate change causes Antarctica’s glaciers to flow out to sea faster, it’s not good news: when this happens, the frozen giants lose more and more ice, which, when it melts, raises the sea level. 


Can Arctic ‘ice management’ combat climate change?

A new AWI study shows that a radical geo-engineering concept could potentially slow sea-ice retreat, but not global warming

Schneebedeckte Schmelzwassertümpel in der Arktis.


Der Schnee auf dem arktischen Meereis schmilzt in jedem Sommer vollständig – zurück bleiben Tümpel aus Schmelzwasser. In großen Teilen der Arktis entstehen diese Tümpel innerhalb weniger Tage, oft in den ersten Juniwochen. Sie verschwinden erst wieder mit dem Gefrieren der Oberfläche im September. Die meisten dieser Süßwassertümpel messen im Durchmesser drei bis 20 Meter. Ihre Farbe hängt vor allem von der Eisdicke unter dem Tümpel ab, da der dunkle (schwarze) Ozean dann mehr oder weniger stark durch scheint. Auf dickerem, mehrjährigem Meereis ist sie folglich eher türkis, bei dünnerem einjährigem Eis dunkelblau bis schwarz.

Frozen and snow-covered meltwater ponds on Arctic sea ice.
[05. December 2019] 

According to a much-debated geo-engineering approach, both sea-ice retreat and global warming could be slowed by using millions of wind-powered pumps, drifting in the sea ice, to promote ice formation during the Arctic winter. AWI researchers have now, for the first time, tested the concept using a complex climate model and published their findings in the journal Earth’s Future. Their verdict is sobering: though the approach could potentially put off ice-free Arctic summers for a few more decades, beyond the Arctic the massive campaign wouldn’t produce any meaningful cooling effect.

Climate Research

Changes in high-altitude winds over the South Pacific produce long-term effects on the Antarctic

New findings from the field of Earth history are improving our grasp of climate mechanisms

[Translate to English:] Satellitenbild mit heutigem Sedimenteintrag von Flüssen in Zentral-Chile
[04. November 2019] 

In the past million years, the high-altitude winds of the southern westerly wind belt, which spans nearly half the globe, didn’t behave as uniformly over the Southern Pacific as previously assumed. Instead, they varied cyclically over periods of ca. 21,000 years. A new study has now confirmed close ties between the climate of the mid and high latitudes and that of the tropics in the South Pacific, which has consequences for the carbon budget of the Pacific Southern Ocean and the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

MOSAiC Expedition

A fortress of ice and snow

MOSAiC expedition begins its ice drift on a floe at 85 degrees north and 137 degrees east

Polarstern arrives at a potent ice floe. After comprehensive measurements, the involved scientists decided it to be the MOSAiC ice floe, with the location 85°N 137E. September 30, 2019
[04. October 2019] 

After only a few days of searching, experts from the MOSAiC expedition have now found a suitable ice floe, where they will set up the research camp for their one-year-long drift through the Arctic Ocean. Consequently, one of the most important milestones in the expedition has been reached ahead of schedule, and before the Polar Night falls. Nevertheless, the search, which involved satellite imagery, two icebreakers, helicopter flights and scouting missions on the surface of the ice, was an enormous challenge – partly because, after the warm summer, there were very few sufficiently thick floes in the expedition’s start region.

IPCC Special Report

The pressure to take action is enormous

Statements on the IPCC’s new Special Report “The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate” from Hans-Otto Pörtner and AWI Director Antje Boetius

Icebergs in the bay of Rothera. Photo: Robert Ricken, Alfred-Wegener-Institut

Fotos von der Polar 6-Kampagne an der Antarktischen Halbinsel im November 2013; Meereisdickenmessungen ueber der Bellinghausensee;  Start und Landungen an der britischen Forschungsstation Rothera;
Flüge für das Projekt AMASIM (Airborne Measurements for Antarctic Sea Ice Monitoring), ein Teil des Profils war entlang einer Überflugbahn des CryoSat-2 Satelliten angelegt. Ziel der Vergleichsflüge ist es, Algorithmen zur verbesserten Auswertung der CryoSat-2 Daten aus den höher auflösenden flugzeuggestützten Messungen zu erarbeiten.

photos from the Polar 6 flight campaign in November 2013; location: Antarctic Peninsula, main base: research station Rothera (UK); campaigns: sea ice thickness measurements across the Bellinghausen sea (Project: AMASIM - Airborne Measurements for Antarctic Sea Ice Monitoring; validation for CryoSat2; flight across the Larsen shelf ice.
[25. September 2019] 

Today, in Monaco, the IPCC will present its new Special Report on the ocean and the Earth’s frozen regions. The report summarises observations of and projections on climate-based changes to ecosystems in the ocean, coastal, polar and alpine regions, describes the likely impacts of these changes for society, and presents a range of options for adaptation. Over the past three years, 104 researchers from 36 countries have contributed to the report. In the statements below, Prof Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group II, and AWI Director Prof Antje Boetius share their thoughts on its significance.