December 2016

Positive outcome of OCCR strategy talks

On the occasion of the annual strategy talks between the University Board of Directors and the OCCR in October 2017, board members declared themselves “very pleased” with the work accomplished by the Oeschger Centre and its members. Up to July 2017, the OCCR will have to produce a self-evaluation report on behalf of the Board of Directors as well as an outlook for the next grant agreement period 2018-2021.

OCCR plenary meeting on 13 February 2017

The next OCCR plenary meeting will take place on 13 February 2017 at 14:00. Please save the date! Exceptionally, we will not gather at the usual university locations but meet at the Swiss Alpine Museum to honour our partnership with the exhibition “Our Water” currently on show. The plenary meeting will be followed by a guided tour of the exhibition and an Apéro at the museums restaurant. A detailed program will follow soon.

Hans Sigrist Symposium: Climate data as evidence

How is the influence of humans on the climate proven, and which ethical and legal consequences does this entail? Top-class speakers addressed these questions at this year’s Hans Sigrist Symposium organised by the OCCR on 2 December. The one-day symposium at the University of Bern was entitled "The Human Fingerprint on the Earth System" and proved to be a full success. More than 100 participants followed outstanding lectures by seven scientists from different fields. Among them were Gabri Hegerl from the University of Edinburgh, who was awarded this year’s Hans Sigrist Prize and Ray Bradley from the University of Massachusetts, who was awarded a Dr Honoris Causa of the University of Bern. The talk by climate lawyer Roda Verheyen was especially topical as the law case she presented, “Saul Luciano Lliuya vs. RWE“, had just entered its trial phase. Read the full story on the Symposium and on the Peruvian farmer who is suing a German electricity giant in the University of Bern’s web paper “uniaktuell”.

Spotlight on Swiss Climate

On November 7 2016, the report “Spotlight on Swiss Climate” was presented in Bern in parallel with the kick-off of the global climate summit COP22 in Marrakech. The 200-page report puts together relevant results from the IPCC AR5 for Switzerland and combines them with new Swiss studies. More than 70 researchers have contributed to the report – among them many OCCR members. It was published by ProClim, SCNAT’s climate change forum, in collaboration with the Swiss environment ministry and the Advisory Body on Climate Change (OcCC). It can be downloaded in German and French. Read a story on the presentation of the new report by Swissinfo.

Summer School 2017 on High Resolution Climate

The next edition of the traditional Swiss Climate Summer School will take place on 3 - 8 September 2917 at Monte Verità, Ticino. The focus will be on “High-resolution climate: observations, models and projections”. The scope description reads: “With the advent of satellites and high-performance computing, the resolution of climate information has been increasing dramatically. This ongoing development is of critical importance from a societal point of view. It will improve the representation of key processes, weather systems and extreme events; reduce uncertainties in climate projections; and facilitate the use of climate information for mitigation and adaptation measures.” Deadline for applications is 31 December 2016. Detailed information and an application form are available at:

100 years of pollen research

OCCR emerita Brigitta Amman (Terrestrial Paleoecology group) is one of the authors of a Perspective Insight Note in Science entitled “The fourth dimension of vegetation” on the 100th anniversary of quantitative pollen analysis. The introductory paragraph of this widely noticed tribute to a pioneer in reconstructing past ecosystems reads: “In July 1916, Swedish geologist Lennart von Post showed that by identifying and counting pollen preserved at different depths in Swedish peat bogs, he could infer changes in forest composition through time. Following his pioneering work, pollen analysis quickly became established as a key tool for understanding past vegetation, climate, and ecosystems. Today, it is used widely to reconstruct past ecosystems and test hypotheses about drivers of ecosystem change.” To celebrate this very special scientific anniversary, Science has produced at rather entertaining video on „one of nature’s most humble objects which is also one of its most durable, and that tells us a lot about the past“. Learn about 100 years of pollen research!

Warmer World paleoworkshop

The OCCR is co-organising a workshop entitled “Lessons learnt from paleoscience on a possible 1.5-2°C warmer world in the future” on 5 – 7 April 2017 in Bern. The goal of the workshop is to summarise the current state of knowledge on the paleo-response of the Earth System to a 1.5-2°C warming. It will also lay out future scientific actions to add to this knowledge in order to come up with authoritative assessments of future long-term changes. It is now entering the public consciousness that future warming triggered by near -term anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will last for many millennia. It is not possible to understand the scale of these long-term impacts based on the short history of direct instrumental observations alone. However, the multitude of climatic and environmental information stored in natural climate archives together with climate model results allow us to draw a comprehensive picture of how different components of the Earth system with long response times will change in a warmer world.

Details and Registration

Abstract Submission Deadline: 29 January 2017

European Hail workshop

The OCCR is also co-organising the 2nd European Hail Workshop on 19 – 21 April 2017 in Bern. Despite the large damage potential, there is a substantial lack of knowledge about hail climatology and risk, hail forecasting, cloud microphysics, long-term variability of hailstorms, and the relationship between hail probability and climate change. This workshop will bring together researchers studying different aspects of hail and representatives from insurances, weather services and agriculture.

Details and Registration

Abstract Submission Deadline: 31 January 2017

Workshop on climate ethics

On 4 - 5 May 2017 a workshop on climate ethics co-organized by the OCCR will take place in Bern. It is entitled “Why be Cautious? On the Justification of Precautionary Principles”. Details of this event will soon be available on the OCCR Website.

New Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry at PSI

Following a decision of the Paul Scherrer Institute’s directorate, the Laboratory of Radiochemistry and Environmental Chemistry will be split into two laboratories as of 1 January 2016, i.e., the Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry (LUC) now located in the renamed Energy and Environment division (ENE) and the Laboratory of Radiochemistry (LRC), newly associated with the Nuclear Energy and Safety division. While Andreas Türler, who is member of the scientific committee of the OCCR, remains head of LRC, Margit Schwikowski, PI of the Analytical Chemistry Research group was promoted to the position of laboratory head of LUC. The new Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry focuses on fundamental research and education for assessing the impact of human activities and natural processes on human health, environment and climate and will continue to be a research group within the OCCR.

Round table discussion on water conflicts

On 2 March 2017 at 17:00, OCCR researchers and practitioners will discuss the consequences of global warming for water conflicts in Switzerland. Panel members are: Michael Moser, vegetable farmer, Kerzers; Thomas Vuille, inspector of fisheries, Canton of Bern; Jürg Fuhrer, OCCR group Air Pollution/Climate and Andreas Zischg, Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks. Save the date!

Deadly Wartime Weather

An extremely deadly meteorological disaster took place in the southeastern Alps during the infamous winter of 1916 /17. Avalanches following a massive snowfall event killed thousands of soldiers as well as civilians. Novel insight into the event arises from an interdisciplinary study conducted at the Oeschger Centre by the Climatology and Environmental History and Historical Climatology groups. It provides detailed reconstruction based on weather forecast models and shows the potential of combining numerical techniques with historical documents. Read the full story in the news section of the OCCR website. The study „December 1916 : Deadly Wartime Weather“ was widely picked up by the media in Austria and Italy (South Tirol), the areas mostly hit by the avalanche disaster a hundred years ago.

Thomas Stocker awarded a Dr Honoris Causa

Thomas Stocker was awarded a Dr Honoris Causa of ETH Zurich on 19 November 2016. In her laudatio, rector Sarah Springman said her institution was honouring a “key figure of climate sciences”. She stressed the role Thomas Stocker played as head of the IPCC’s Working Group I from 2008 – 2015 where he not only succeeded creating networks among researchers but also took the responsibility of building bridges between climate research, policy makers and the general public.

Important step for the oldest ice project

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI has just approved the funding of the Swiss part of “Beyond EPICA – Oldest Ice”, an international project in which the OCCR’s Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group plays a central role. Read the University of Bern’s media release on this important endeavour. “Beyond EPICA – Oldest Ice” wants to drill down to the bedrock under the Antarctic ice sheet – about 3 kilometres deep. Researchers are especially interested in the lowest 50 to 100 metres, where the ice is extremely compressed. They expect to find thousands of years’ worth of climate history stored within just a few centimetres of the core. This implies that anybody mining this layered archive will have to make do with tiny quantities of atmospheric gases contained in the ice. Read on the cutting edge analytical techniques being developed at the OCCR for this purpose as well as the innovative pinhole technology which was invented to establish the location best suited for the deep drilling. The European Commission funds “Beyond EPICA – Oldest Ice” with 2.2 million Euros, the project is coordinated by the German Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).

Echoes of extreme cold in the 1430s

Chantal Camenisch and Melanie Salvisberg are Postdocs with the Environmental History and Historical Climatology group and Kathrin M. Keller is a Postdoc with the Earth System Modeling – Bio-Geo-Chemical Cycles group. In 2014, they had launched an interdisciplinary conference on the Spörer Minimum. This conference has now resulted in a jointly written paper published in Climate of the Past, a journal of the European Geosciences Union and, which is rare, the publication of a press release by the EGU, which they do on rare occasions only The story was entitled “The Coldest Decade of the Millennium? How the cold 1430s led to famine and disease“ and it was broadly picked up by the media (see OCCR press coverage). Chantal Camenisch, among other media, was interviewed by the BBC’s World Service program „Science in Action“. This is a lot of scientific zest for young researchers and it gained the trio respect way beyond the OCCR.

Our Water: Six Models for the Future

The exhibition “Our Water: Six Models for the Future“ saw its festive inauguration on 26 October 2016. For the show, the Swiss Alpine Museum teamed up with the OCCR as its scientific partner. OCCR researchers provided input and guidance for the concept of this challenging exhibition which takes a look into the future while making the link between research and fiction. Starting from a scientific perspective, four contemporary authors have come up with six models for our future existence with water. Read the story on the exhibition and watch the video statements by Martin Grosjean and Rolf Weingartner prominently featured in the show.

Ray Bradley awarded by University of Bern

Ray Bradley is a professor at the Department of Geosciences
and Director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst – and he is related to the OCCR in many ways. Among other activities, he has published research papers with OCCR members, held lectures at the Swiss Climate Summer School, and most recently, delivered the inaugural speech at the Hans Sigirst Symposium organised by the Oeschger Center in early December. Listen to the interview Ray gave to Swiss radio station SRF2 Kultur on the consequences of Donald Trump’s election for US climate researchers. Ray was awarded a Dr Honoris Causa of the University of Bern on the Dies academicus on 3 December 2016. The laudatio stressedRay’s ground-breaking scientific contributions and his courageous way to assume responsibility as a researcher in the discussion on global anthropogenic warming.

New research equipment for the analysis of ice cores

The Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group has raised funding for a new device for the analysis of trace elements on ice cores. The Inductively Coupled Plasma - Time Of Flight - Mass Spectrometer (ICP-TOF-MS) costs 566'000 CHF and is jointly financed by the OCCR, the SNSF’s funding scheme R’Equip, the Faculty of Science as well as the University Board of Directors.

Sherlock Holmes and Lake Iffig

The OCCR’s Website features profile stories on OCCR members. The latest addition to this series is a story on environmental scientist Christoph Schwörer who pieces together vegetation history with the help of sediments from alpine lakes. And using data from the past, he’s also simulating the future tree line. His research could be described as the work of an environmental detective.

Worlddidac Award 2016 for Hydrology group

The OCCR’s Hydrology group is part of the team that received a Worlddidac Award 2016. The team was honoured for a learning medium for hydrology at the secondary school level. It is called Understanding Water: Hydrological extreme events and is edited by Hep Verlag AG. Worlddidac is the global trade association for the educational resources industry, working equally with all education sectors, all countries and all relevant national associations; that creates international sales opportunities for its members. It is the only association dedicated to the development of education worldwide.

Advanced Postdoc Mobility grant for Chantal Camenisch

Chantal Camenisch, who is a Postdoc with the Environmental History and Historical Climatology group, has received an Advanced Postdoc Mobility grant by the SNSF to pursue her academic career. The grant covers three years of research. Chantal’s research project is called „Klima und Gesellschaft in der Vormoderne: Eine vergleichende Studie zur Anpassung an extreme Witterung und Klimawandel im Schweizer Mittelland, Yorkshire und der Normandie von 1315 bis 1715“. She will be spending 10 months at the Universities of Rouen, York and Leipzig each and then come back to the University of Bern in order to prepare her habilitation.

PhD mobility grant for Lena Thöle

Lena Thöle, who does her PhD at the Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry group, was awarded a PhD mobility grant by the Swiss National Science Foundation. She is currently spending a six-months research stay at the Max Planck Institut für Chemie in Mainz, Germany. Her research inerests are in Southern Ocean paleoceanography, paleoclimatology, climate change, and marine biogeochemistry.

Master thesis award for Adrien Michel

Former Climate master student Adrien Michel ,who did his thesis with the Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group, was awarded the Prix de Quervain 2016 for Polar and High Altitude Research for his thesis "Transient Modeling of Borehole Temperature and Basal Melting in an Ice Sheet". This prize is attributed to young scientists for outstanding achievements in their MA or PhD thesis or other research projects. It is jointly awarded by the Swiss Committee on Polar
and High Altitude Research and the Jungfraujochkomission. Both institutions are part ofthe Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences SCNAT.

Venia docendi for Daniele Colombaroli

Daniele Colombaroli, who is a Postdoc at the Terrestrial Paleoecology group, has received his venia docendi in the field of Paleoecology and Climate Change Ecology at the University of Bern with a habilitation thesis entitled "Linking fire, human impact and plant diversity across multiple temporal and spatial scales". He has thus gained the permission for lecturing at Universities and the status of Privatdozent (PD).

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Leonie Bernet is a new PhD student with the Atmospheric Radiometry and Processes group Niklaus Kämpfer. She did a MSc Climate Science at the University of Bern. Her research interests are in the cycle of stratospheric ozone as well as in the reduction of systematic errors in long-term ozone trends.
Ling Fang is a new PhD with the Analytical Chemistry Research group. She gained a MSc in Biogemical Oceanography at Soul National University, South Corea. Her PhD project is on “Radiocarbon analysis of DOC and WIOC in glacier ice”.

Patricio Andrés Velasquez Alvárez is a new PhD student with the Earth System Modelling - Atmospheric Dynamics group. He did a MSc in Meteorology and Climatology at the Universidad the Chile with a thesis on “Aerosols and Ozone at Cerro Tololo (30°S, 70°W), Chile“ and has ample work experience as a meteorologist.

A warm welcome to all of you!

Researchers who have recently left the OCCR:

Bruno Schädler, who was a Senior Researcher with the Hydrology group, has retired.

Jos Schilder, who was a Postdoc with the Aquatic Paleoecology group, is now at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, where he holds a Postdoc position at the Department of Biological and Environmental Science.

Oliver Eicher, finished his PhD at the Earth System Modeling – Atmosphere Ocean Dynamics group. He is looking for a new position.

All the best for your future career!