Coast at the Baltic Sea (Photo: Birgit Hünicke)
Climate Extremes and Impacts
The research of the department Climate Extremes and Impacts focuses on the long-term historical, recent and future changes of the land-ocean system brought about by climate variations and other drivers of societal relevance, and the study of the impact of these changes in different coastal regions around the world. This includes, for instances, the study of changes in mean and extreme sea levels that have a direct impact on coastline changes or the study of climatic driven changes in coastal upwelling regions with a direct impact on primary production and fishery.
A fundamental aspect of our research is to place the recently observed (atmospheric and ocean) climate changes in a longer perspective to better understand the mechanism that give rise to climate variations before the industrial period. This includes also the analysis of extreme events, which may continue to occur independently from anthropogenic forcing.
For such a journey through time, we perform long climate simulations with state-of-the-art computer models spanning thousands of years, considering main driving factors which affect past climates, such as the varying intensity of the energy output of the sun, volcanic eruptions and changes in the configuration of the Earth´s orbit. The climate models use these driving factors to simulate the response of the atmosphere, the ocean, the sea-ice, the vegetation, etc. To test the robustness, we compare our results with climatic information derived from natural climatic archives, such as corals, tree rings and ice cores, and from historical documentary evidence of the past centuries. This includes not only the analysis of available proxy archive networks, but also the test of the robustness of newly found marine proxy archives, such as coastal dunes and mollusks.
Therefore, our research questions require not only the application of sophisticated statistical methods, but also the development of new advanced statistical techniques.
The estimation of past natural climate changes enables us to gain information about expected future climate variations around the long-term trends in the next few decades. This information is most important for stakeholders and decision makers and the public in general.