Press release

New initiative for climate research - Eight Research Centres of the Helmholtz Association focus their competences in exploring the regional climate

[28. October 2009] 

Bremerhaven/Berlin, October 28th 2009. The earth is currently subject to profound climate change. However, the effects can regionally be highly different. How will global changes impact in detail on the regional scale? In which way will anthropogenic influence and natural climate change affect each other? On which knowledge base can regions react to the expected changes by means of appropriate climate adaptation and mitigation strategies? Eight research centres of the Helmholtz Association focus their competences in the Helmholtz network Regional Climate Change (“Regionale Klimaänderungen”: REKLIM) to answer questions of this kind. The network is equipped with a budget of 32.2 million Euros during the years 2009 to 2013.
Interactions between atmosphere, ice, oceans and land surfaces determine the Earth’s climate. Recent global climate models were very helpful in creating a first understanding of large-scale natural climate fluctuations and human impacts on the climate. Many processes, which influence the climate on various scales, however, are not well enough understood. There is currently a general consensus in the scientific community that the current global warming of the Earth can mainly be attributed with a high probability to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and altered land use. Detailed impacts on specific regions are so far not completely understood. Whether climate change causes, for example, summers to be dryer or winters to be wetter is scientifically not sufficiently clear for all regions, but is crucial for agricultural use. “For political and economic decision-making, detailed scenarios regarding for example the increasing sea level are important to adapt coastal protection measures accordingly”, says Prof. Dr. Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association, underlining the social relevance of regional climate scenarios.
Headed by Prof. Dr. Peter Lemke from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, eight research centres of the Helmholtz Association have joined together in the network REKLIM, which tries to find answers to the following questions:


- In which way is the development of our climate dependent on the interaction between atmosphere, ice, oceans and land surfaces, and how does human influence affect natural climate fluctuations?

- How large is the loss of continental ice masses (particularly on Greenland) and how does the sea level react to melt water and warming?

- What are the causes of the large changes in Arctic sea ice and permafrost and what are the local impacts and the teleconnections?

- Which consequences from climate change do we have to expect for ecosystems, water resources or agriculture and forestry in Germany and the Alpine region?

- In which way will the regional climate be affected by changing atmospheric composition? In which way will extreme weather events like storms, floods and droughts be altered by climate change?

- How can we choose an optimal path for adaptation and mitigation measures?


To answer these questions, the researchers from the eight centres will improve the database for their model computations. This will be the only way to produce high-resolution analyses and scenarios. “Detailed observations and process studies are used to develop optimized coupled climate models that will show us the regional and local imprints of the changing global climate system”, explains Lemke. This way, the researchers will be able to give better advice to policy makers, business, administration and the public at large with scientifically founded data and scenarios for decisions concerning regional development. “The participating Helmholtz centres work in various scientific disciplines. We will expand and combine our excellent expert knowledge in a result-oriented manner in REKLIM to facilitate well-founded decision-making processes on how regions will adapt to climate change or how to avoid it”, the climate scientist continues.
The following Helmholtz centres are participating in the Helmholtz network REKLIM: the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research in Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the GKSS Research Centre Geesthacht, the Research Centre Jülich, the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, the Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Centre for Environmental Health, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, and the German Aerospace Centre - DLR.

Notes for Editors:
Your contact person at the Alfred Wegener Institute is Prof. Dr Peter Lemke (Tel: ++49 471 4831-1751; E-Mail: Peter.Lemke@awi.de). Your contact person in the department Communications and Media at the Helmholtz Assiciation is Kerstin Bähren (Tel.: 030/20632924; E-Mail: kerstin.baehren@helmholtz.de) and at the Alfred Wegener Institute Folke Mehrtens (phone: +49 471 4831-2007; email: Folke.Mehrtens@awi.de).

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The Institute

The Alfred Wegener Institute pursues research in the polar regions and the oceans of mid and high latitudes. As one of the 19 centres of the Helmholtz Association it coordinates polar research in Germany and provides ships like the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations for the international scientific community.