December 2020

General News

Working Group for OCCR Review has been established

As mentioned previously,  the Oeschger Centre will prepare a review Report (self-evaluation) in 2021. This report will review the achievements of the past four years and propose potential new avenues for further development of the OCCR research portfolio. For this purpose, a working group has been established which is composed of all the OCCR Research Group leaders and of representatives of PostDocs, PhD and MSc students at the OCCR. The working group will meet on 27 January 2021 for a one-day retreat. After this, all OCCR members will be invited to comment on the review proposal.

OCCR is part of Phänomena 22

OCCR is part of Phänomena 22

The OCCR is a scientific partner of Phänomena, a huge science show to be held in Zurich in 2022. The first edition of Phänomena in 1984 is still very much in the mind of people who visited it due to its novel way to present scientific phenomena and to present science as an adventure. Phänomena 22 will feature climate and climate change as one of its major sections.

The OCCR has been asked to coordinate the climate part of the show and is currently involved in workshops with the organizers and designers of the exhibition.

OCCR is part of Phänomena 22

New funding for Prehistory Archeology

The OCCR’s Prehistory Archeology group has received SNFS funding for two projects starting in 2021. The project XRONOS – Open Access Database for absolute chronological archaeological information was granted 320'000 CHF, the project Mobility, Vulnerability and Resilience of Middle European Neolithic Societies at the end of the 4th millenium BC receives 785'000 CHF. The XRONOS project aims to compile and manage radiocarbon and dendrochronological data in a worldwide unique database. This will enable a multitude of transdisciplinary research projects on population dynamics, human-environmental dependencies and thus fundamental transformations in the European past. The Mobility project will combine qualitative and quantitative methods of archaeology, archaeometry and climate studies in order to provide a precise chronology and information on the history of settlement in wetland sites in France, Germany and Switzerland during the Neolithic transition during the 4th–3rd millennia BC.

Large Eddy Simulation at the OCCR

The pilot project for Large Eddy Simulation (LSE) (see Oeschger-News September 2020) is well under way. A contract with the private company Meteotest has been signed and a number of experimental studies to show the feasibility and substantiate potential fields of application of LSE have now been launched. In simple terms, LSE is a weather model which allows the simulation of circulation on a small scale (the bottom of mountain valleys, urban canyons etc.). At the OCCR, this new tool – based on a PALM model – might be used in the fields of urban climatology, climate and human health as well as climate risks, extreme events and other climate impacts.

International Universities Climate Alliance

The University of Bern, represented by the OCCR, is a founding partner of the International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA). This group of around 50 leading universities wants to provide a strong and respected international voice on matters related to climate change science, impacts, mitigation and adaptation. The IUCA has published an open letter to the G20 leaders who met on 21 and 22 November 2020 in Riad. The closing part of this declaration reads: “We still have a window of time to make the necessary transition to a carbon-neutral economy, we strongly encourage world leaders to ensure that all COVID stimulus measures maintain their countries’ commitments under the Paris Agreement and work toward a net-zero emission plan.”

Peer-to-peer communication to foster curiosity in science

As mentioned in the last edition of this newsletter, the OCCR is the new partner of Girls on Ice Switzerland. A series of mini-workshops at schools will be conducted in the framework of this project. The workshops aim to enhance the dialogue on the scientific process and related facts about climate change impacts on glaciers, in particular. It builds on the experiences gained with the Girls on Ice project. Past participants will lead a post-expedition mini-workshop at their school, with the support of one of the science instructors. The peer-to-peer communication as well as the interactive structure of the mini-workshops opens the floor for science-based discussions among young students supported by science-ambassadors. Teachers interested in hosting a workshop at their school are welcome to contact the project team via

Climate reconstruction from the archives of societies

OCCR members Chantal Camenisch and Heli Huhtamaa (Environmental History and Historical Climatology group) were part of the editing team of the latest issue of the Past Global Changes Magazine which presents the state of research in the field of historical climatology. Its articles examine different regions of the world and review innovative methodological approaches, recent scientific results, and analyses of new source materials.

A strength of historical climatology is the recovery of precisely located and dated information on climate and weather before the modern instrumental record.

Mobiliar Lab Newsletter

The OCCR’s Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks has just published the latest issue of its biannual newsletter (in German). Topics featured include a study on why object protection measures against floods have not been implemented to a greater extent, and a survey on the importance of risk apprehension by the general public when managing flood risks.

OCCR members hit the news

The OCCR’s Community ecology group runs a large field experiment in Münchenbuchsee (near Bern) which investigates the mechanisms by which nitrogen enrichment affects ecosystem functioning. The so-called PaNDiv experiment was extensively featured in the 3sat TV show Nano (in German, see 21:20). “It was quite an interesting experience working with the presenter to make the segment and trying to explain our research in accessible terms”, said Eric Allan, the project leader.

3sat TV show Nano

A study by OCCR member Aurea Chiaia-Hernandez (Lake Sediments and Paleolimnology group) on plant protection products in the sediments of lake Münchenbuchsee close to Bern was the topic of a recent media release issued by the University of Bern.

Read up about these and many more appearances of OCCR members in the media in the Press Coverage and Press Releases sections of the OCCR website.

Climate change impacts, the timing of seasons and phenology

Klimawandel und Jahreszeiten Cover

Honouring the 50-year anniversary of the BernClim observation network at the Institute of Geography, Stefan Brönnimann and This Rutishauser (Climatology group) have edited a collection of articles for a broader audience. A number of authors from the OCCR, among others, show how climate change leads to changes in the timing of seasonal events of plants such as blooming as well as changes in the seasonality of snow and hydrological systems, agriculture, forestry, frost events and grape harvest dates of the last centuries.

The brochure «Klimawandel und Jahreszeiten» is available in German for download from Geographica Bernensia and in print upon request from the Climatology Group.


Plenary meeting on 18 February 2021

The next OCCR Plenary Meeting Spring 2021 will take place on 18 February 2021, 14 – 17 h. Save the date! Details on time and location are to be announced.

OCCR conferences confirmed in 2021

A number of OCCR events that had to be postponed due to the Corona crisis have been rescheduled: The Workshop on Compound Weather and Climate Events will take place 12 - 15 January 2021 (online-format only). The Centenary Palaeoecology Symposium “From the past to the future: 100 years of Palaeoecology in Bern (1920-2020)” will take place 7 – 8 June 2021 in Bern (format not decided yet). The 2nd International Conference on Contaminated Sediments, ContaSed will take place 9 – 11 June 2021 in Bern (format not decided yet).

Swiss Climate Summer School 2021

The Swiss Climate Summer School 2021 is entitled “Vegetation, Land surface and Climate Interactions" and will take place from 29 August to 3 September in Ticino, Southern Switzerland. The call for the Summer School has not been launched yet, OCCR Postdocs and PhDs will be directly informed when to register. Remember that the OCCR covers the costs for the Summer School for all Postdocs and all the PhDs enrolled in the Graduate School. The Summer School 2022 will be on Extreme Events.

Mobiliar Lab public event

The OCCR’s Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks traditionally holds a public event in November. Due to the corona crisis, this year’s event had to be cancelled. Instead, the Mobiliar Lab has posted a series of short videos on These films show how extensive flood damage to buildings is today and how the risk will evolve in the future. Moreover, the videos explain how the so-called damage simulator (‘Schadensimulator’) created by the Mobiliar Lab can be used to interpret hazard maps and to establish the possible extent of damage to buildings. Interested parties are invited to discuss methodological questions and possible applications of the damage simulator with the project team (

Young Researchers Meeting 2021

The OCCR Young Researchers Meeting 2021 is planned to take place in Aeschi bei Spiez on 10 and 11 June. A call for the meeting will be launched in February 2021. Save the date for now.

Animals, Climate Change and Global Health

Charlotte Blattner, an OCCR associate, works on her habilitation on climate law at the University of Bern. Together with colleagues from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA) and the University of Wageningen (NL), she has recently organized a series of seminars on animals, climate change and global health. The event involved leading experts from around the world and aimed to inspire an in-depth conversation – and actions – regarding animals, climate change, and global health. All the six webinars have been recorded and can be viewed on

Swiss Global Change Day

The next Swiss Global Change Day will take place on 13 April 2021. Speakers include OCCR member Bettina Schaefli (Hydrology group). The title of her talk is “Energy-turnaround in times of retreating glaciers: what is at stake?”. The Swiss Global Change Day is an annual event organized by ProClim; it looks beyond the horizon of climate and global change research by inviting well-known expert talks that cover a broad range of topics.


Bettina Schaefli in an exclusive Q&A Interview

Bettina Schäfli

Bettina Schaefli joined the University of Bern and the OCCR a year ago as a professor of hydrology. In this interview, she talks about the risks of water and electricity shortages, the importance of field research and the interest in her findings. Read the full story.

Thomas Frölicher’s professorship extended

Thomas Frölicher’s professorship extended

Thomas Frölicher (Ocean modelling group) has joined the University of Bern and the OCCR as an SNFS Assistant Professor in 2017, the title of his project was “Ocean extremes in a warmer world: Mapping risks for marine ecosystems“. His professorship has now been extended by the SNFS for two additional years. His adjusted project is on bi- and trivariate extreme events in the ocean, e.g. on marine heatwaves and ocean acidity extremes occurring simultaneously.

Franziska Lechleitner awarded by EGU

Franziska Lechleitner awarded by EGU

Franziska Lechleitner (Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS) has been nominated for the Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award by the European Geosciences Union (EGU). The 51 recipients of next year’s Union Medals and Awards, Division Medals, and Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Awards are honoured for their important contributions to the Earth, planetary and space sciences. They will be celebrated during the EGU General Assembly 2021, which will be held from 25 to 30 April 2021.

Profile story on Marlene Kammerer

Marlene Kammerer

Political scientist Marlene Kammerer (Policy Analysis and Environmental Governance group) is featured in the profile section of the OCCR’s Website in regard with her new project “What international negotiators promise and domestic policymakers adopt: Policy and politics in the multi-level climate change regime” The project uses a variety of approaches to find factors that favour the fulfilment of negotiation promises and to analyze their implementation within the framework of national regulations.

Among other things, the project will analyse policy networks and produce econometric analyses. Moreover, team members plan to interview as many delegates as possible during the COP 26 in Glasgow next autumn.
Read the full story.

Thomas Frölicher joins AtlantECO

AtlantECO logo

Thomas Frölicher (Ocean modelling group) is part of major international project. In September 2020, 36 organisations from 13 different countries launched AtlantECO, an ambitious research project funded by the European Union to explore the Atlantic Ocean from pole to pole.

The project will map new and existing knowledge about the microscopic organisms that inhabit rivers, coastal waters, the open ocean, marine sediments and the atmosphere, as well as those found on plastic litter. This microbiome-based study of climate change, adaptation and resilience aims to predict the future of Atlantic marine ecosystem services. Inspired by medical research that combines next generation genetic, imaging and environmental approaches, AtlantECO will develop diagnostic tools and metrics to assess and predict changes in the health of the Atlantic Ocean.

Profile story on Frerk Pöppelmeier

Frerk Pöppelmeier

Frerk Pöppelmeier is a Postdoc with the Earth System Modelling – Climate Dynamics group. He is working towards a better understanding of the Atlantic circulation and says: “In our area of study, data alone will not get us anywhere. To get a little closer to the truth, you have to link measurement results to models”. At the OCCR, Frerk Pöppelmeier has found exactly the expertise in climate modelling that he needed to advance his research.
Read the full story.

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Moritz Burger is a new PhD with the Climatology group. He did a Master in Climate Science at the University of Bern. The title of his thesis was “Modelling the spatial pattern of the urban heat island of Bern during heatwaves in 2018 and 2019 using a land use regression approach”. His current research focus is on urban climatology and on its impacts on the life quality and human health.

Sevil Cosgun is a new PhD with the Paleoecology group. She did a master in Environmental Engineering with a thesis entitled "Optimization of Ozonation Conditions for the Phosphorus Recovery from Waste Activated Sludge" and another master in Bioengineering with a thesis entitled "Monitoring of Anammox Bacteria under Gradually Increasing Heavy Metal Concentrations" at the Marmara University, Istanbul. Her research focus is on paleoecology.

Martina Messmer who is returning to the OCCR from a postdoctoral stay in Melbourne and joins the Earth System Modelling – Climate Dynamics group to work on high-resolution regional climate modelling as a Postdoc. Martina will collaborate with the newly founded Wyss Academy at the University of Bern and focus on projections of climate change, particularly of extreme event statistics and changes in the water budget, in the Amazonian region of Peru and the area around Mount Kenya.

Michaela Mühl is a new PhD student in the Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group. Before starting her PhD, she did a Master in Climate Sciences at the University of Bern with a thesis entitled "Using CH4 isotopic measurements to constrain atmospheric CH4 concentrations in ice cores". Her research focus is on past climate reconstructions of the global methane cycle by using polar ice cores.

Lukas Munz is a new PhD at the Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks. He studied Geography in Bern and did his Master in Paleo-Geoecology. In his PhD project he will combine methods of physical modelling and methods for deriving vulnerabilities of a selected socio-economic system. The storyline approach will be applied to understand and communicate the complex interactions between the physical, ecological and societal aspects of extreme flood events in Switzerland. The working title of his PhD project is “Development of physically consistent storylines of extreme flood events and their impacts”.

Lucas Pfister a new PhD with the Climatology group. He did a Master in Geography at University of Bern with a thesis entitled 'Statistical Reconstruction of Past Extreme Winter Weather in Switzerland – Assessing daily precipitation and temperature fields using the example of avalanche winters'. His research focus is on dynamical downscaling and statistical reconstruction of weather in the 19th and 20th century and studying impacts of historical extreme events on society.

Sarah Rowan is a new PhD at the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA). She previously did a Master in Earth Sciences at ETH Zurich, where she specialised in palaeoclimatology and biogeochemistry. Her PhD thesis, started in November 2020, will be focussed on analysing stalagmite organic carbon and assessing its ability to be a tracer for terrestrial ecosystem dynamics and their response to climate change.

Senn Carolina

Carolina Senn is a new PhD with the Paleoecology group. She did a Master in Climate Sciences at the University of Bern with a thesis entitled “Modern pollen – vegetation – plant diversity relationships across large environmental gradients in northern Greece”. Her research focus is on reconstructing vegetation dynamics and on disentangling the impacts of climate and human being on it.

A warm welcome to all of you!

Recent journal publications by OCCR members

See all the publications by OCCR members.