June 2020

Climate change at school

The University of Bern, represented by the OCCR, is a founding partner of a new initiative called International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA) that was launched by the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

IUCA intends to form a group of around 50 leading universities, representing all regions of the world, to provide a strong and respected international voice on matters related to climate change science, impacts, mitigation and adaptation. The future role of IUCA should be to engage with policymakers on international climate agreements.

European Space Agency and OCCR pool satellite data

Significant support from the OCCR allowed the Remote Sensing Research Group (RSGB), which is part of the OCCR’s Climatology group, to compile and harmonize the largest 1-km European Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite archive from 1981 until today. The group operates its own receiving station and archiving facilities. These unique AVHRR data could be reprocessed and archived at European Space Agency ESA. ESA and the OCCR have now pooled their AVHRR data together to create a valuable data set accessible free of charge to all interested users. The archive is publicly available via ESA’s dissemination service. Read an ESA press release on this collaboration.

European network for Mediterranean cyclones

The OCCR groups Earth System Modelling - Atmospheric Dynamics and Mobiliar Group for Climate Impact Research play a central role in a new COST Action called “European network for Mediterranean cyclones in weather and climate”. The description of the project reads: “Cyclones are the main weather modulators in the Mediterranean region and constitute a major environmental risk, often producing windstorms and heavy rainfall. (…) The lack of direct interaction between academic researchers and weather / climate prediction scientists working in operational centres inhibits the efficient exploitation of fundamental research results to improve atmospheric models in a tangible way. Therefore, it is undeniable that there are potentially large societal benefits from improving cyclone predictions for weather and climate timescales. (…) This Action will coordinate the activities of researchers in meteorology and climatology and scientists from weather/climate services with the main aims to provide a deeper understanding of Mediterranean cyclones and to improve significantly the European capacity to predict their environmental and climate impacts.”

Successful visiting scientist program

The OCCR regularly hosts visiting scientists. This program often triggers fruitful scientific collaborations. A telling example is the visit in 2019 by William Cheung from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He worked with OCCR member Thomas Frölicher (Ocean Modelling group) on marine heatwaves and impacts on fisheries. Cheung combined output from large ensemble simulations of an Earth system model, with a fish impact model. The collaboration lead to a publication in Scientific Reports entitled “Marine heatwaves exacerbate climate change impacts for fisheries in the northeast Pacific”. This collaboration was supported by the Hans Sigrist Foundation.

EXPLO diving campaign in Albania postponed

The diving campaign of the ERC Synergy project EXPLO (OCCR Palaeoecology and Prehistory Archeology) on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid, originally scheduled between 1 June and 10 July 2020, will not take place as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent measures. It will be postponed to a later date. Check the new EXPLO website.

Mobiliar Lab Newsletter

The Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks has just published the latest issue of its biannual newsletter (in German). Topics featured include: a new Flood Damage Simulator Tool, a comparison of methods regarding the exposure to floods of roads and high-resolution climate maps for Switzerland.

Two new projects to study climate change from space

The Remote Sensing Research Group (RSGB; part of the OCCR’s Climatology group) has won two open funding calls to study essential climate parameters using satellite data. The first project, called SemantiX, combines heritage AVHRR and Copernicus Sentinel-3 A/B data to create climatological time series for Essential Climate Variables (ECVs; snow cover, lake surface water temperature und vegetation index). Linked to mobile citizen science applications, the information can be easily accessed by end users. The is funded by the Austrian Space Application Program (ASAP) and will start 1 August 2020.
The second project is funded by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) program at MeteoSwiss. The project consists in the production of a novel data set of long-term fractional snow cover, to be developed for the period from 1981 to 2021. The 40-year time series of fractional snow cover for Switzerland will be extracted from AVHRR data (archived at RSGB) including uncertainty and quality information. By the end of the project, the data set will be publicly available to support future climate studies as an independent data source on snow cover dynamics. Contact: stefan.wunderle@giub.unibe.ch


Swiss Climate Summer School 2020 postponed to 2022

The Swiss Climate Summer School "Extreme weather and climate: from atmospheric processes to impacts on ecosystems and society place" has been postponed to 2022. There will be a new call issued in September 2021. Accepted participants for the postponed event will have to apply again. In 2021, the Swiss Climate Summer School entitled “Vegetation, Land surface and Climate Interactions" will take place in Ticino, Southern Switzerland. Swiss Climate Summer Schools are open to young researchers (PhD and Postdoc) from all fields of climate research. The call will be launched in September 2020.

Workshop on Prehistoric Wetland Sites of Southern Europe

An international workshop organized by OCCR members Ariane Ballmer, Albert Hafner (Prehistory Archeology group) and Willy Tinner (Palaeoecology group) is planned for 15–17 October 2020 in Bern. Under the topic of 'Prehistoric Wetland Sites of Southern Europe. Archaeology, Chronology, Palaeoecology and Bioarchaeology', experts from various disciplines will meet for three days to discuss the latest discoveries and research approaches to prehistoric wetland archaeology south of the Alps, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. Further information will follow.

Floods: a new view on hazards and damages

On 4 December 2020 (morning), the OCCR’s  Mobliar Lab for natural hazards will organize a half-day conference on floods («Zum Umgang mit Hochwassern: von der Gefahren- zur Schadensicht»). Save the date, more detailed information will follow.


Olivia Romppainen joins ProClim steering committee

Olivia Romppainen

ProClim is a forum for climate and global change, which seeks to facilitate both integrated research activities and the necessary linkages among scientists, policy-makers, economy and the public. It is part of the Platform Science and Policy (SAP) of the Swiss Academies of Sciences (SCNAT).

Strategically, ProClim is led by a steering committee (Kuratorium) in which the OCCR traditionally holds a seat. The new OCCR representative is Olivia Romppainen (Mobiliar Group for Climate Impact Research), she succeeds the OCCR president Thomas Stocker.

Bettina Schaefli leads Hydrology group

Bettina Schaefli

Bettina Schaefli is a new OCCR group leader, she succeeds Rolf Weingartner as the head of the Hydrology group and holds the chair of Hydrology at the Institute of Geography, University of Bern. In her last position, Bettina Schaefli was a SNFS assistant professor at the University of Lausanne.

The main focuses of her research group are advancing understanding of physical hydrological processes including flow paths, reservoirs and discharge at multiple scales, development of new models for improved predictions of hydrological systems, and model integration of novel data sources, such as satellite imagery and cutting-edge tracers. The developed methods are relevant across disciplines, for example, for flood prediction, water temperature modeling, and water resource estimation for hydropower or ecosystem protection.

Marie Curie Fellow Ronald Friedman chooses OCCR

Andrew Ronald Friedman

Andrew Ronald Friedman will join the OCCR as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow later this year. This prestigious fellowship is funded by the European Comission to advance researcher careers by them spending two years at a European.

Andrew holds a PhD in Geography from the University of California, Berkley and is currently a Postdoc in climate analysis at the University of Edinburgh. He will be part of the OCCR’s Climatology group with a project which combines analysis of early instrumental historical climate data with state-of-the-art reanalysis and model output to understand mechanisms of hydroclimate variability in and around the Atlantic.

Maria Leunda awarded Harper Prize

Maria Leunda

Maria Leunda, recently named a postdoctoral fellow at the OCCR’s Paleoecology group, has received the prestigious Harper Prize for young researchers in the field of ecology. She won the award for a paper on Pyrenean vegetation dynamics based on data from an ice cave. Read the full story on how Maria’s love of mountains sparked her scientific career.

Fabian Rey awarded Prix Schläfli in Geosciences

Fabian Rey has examined hundreds of thousands of pollen grains in his work, analyzing the history of land use and vegetation more precisely than ever before. This got him the Prix Schläfli in Geosciences awarding the best PhD theses in Switzerland. This award is one of the most prestigious prizes for young natural scientists in Switzerland. The official award ceremony will be held at the Swiss Geosciences Meeting in Zurich (6 to 7 November 2020).

Fabian did his PhD as a member of the OCCR’s Palaeoecology group. He now works as a Palaeoecological Laboratory Manager at the University of Basel.

Eric Allan about being a plant whisperer

Eric Allan

Eric Allan recently became a member of the OCCR with his Community ecology group. As a biologist, Eric Allan who recently became a member of the OCCR with his Community ecology group he is searching for answers to the big questions surrounding biodiversity. How does biodiversity arise, how is it changing in the face of global and climate change and what consequences do these changes have for ecosystems? Read the full story.

Alexandra Vlachos appointed Secretary of ICEHO

Alexandra Vlachos

Alexandra Vlachos (Environmental History and Historical Climatology group) has been appointed Secretary of the International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations (ICEHO). ICEHO is the global umbrella of all major environmental history organisations and institutions. Alexandra was also part of an ICEHO group that recently compiled a reading list on Epidemics & Ecologies which offers a historical perspective (and context) on the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Natalie Ceperley is a new scientific staff member with the Hydrology group. She is an eco-hydrologist with particular expertise in evaporation, stable isotopes of water, and participatory research. She has done extensive field work in West Africa and the Swiss Alps, studying surface hydrological processes and their interactions with biological communities. At the University of Bern, she is working to develop a forest hydrology research collaboration with the Bern University of Applied Sciences Forestry Program. Natalie holds a Bachelor of Arts in bBiology with an interdisciplinary concentration in Global Development Studies from Grinnell College, USA, a Master of Environmental Science with a Graduate Certificate in African Studies from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

Adrianus Damanik is a new PhD with the Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology group. He did a Master in Geological Engineering at the Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia with a thesis entitled “Multiproxy Analysis of Paleoclimatic and Paleoceanography Conditions in the Late Pleistocene-Holocene in North Papua Waters, Pacific Ocean”. His research focus is on Paleoclimatology and Paleoenvironment.

Moctar Dembélé is a PhD student with the Hydrology group. He is hosted at University of Lausanne. He holds a Master in Water Engineering from the International Institute for Water and Environmental in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Moctar's research interest is in large-scale hydrology and its interactions with climate variability and change, using earth observation data.

Laura Dziomber is a new PhD with the Paleoecology group. She did a Master in Earth Science, specializing in Earth and Life Evolution at the University of Fribourg with a thesis entitled “A study of the ecomorphology of the shell of extant turtles using geometric morphometrics and its application to fossil turtles”. Her research consists of studying the impact of past climate changes on the range and the genetic diversity of mountain forests in the Swiss Alps during the Holocene, in order to produce predictions for present-day and future climate change.

Imogen Gabriel is a new PhD student with the Past volcanism and climate impact group. She undertook a Master in Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway, University of London, with a thesis entitled “A high-resolution Mid-Late Holocene tephrostratigraphic study of Kiteschee Lake, King George Island, Sub-Antarctica”. Her research focus is on the analysis and correlation of both cryptotephra within the Greenland Ice cores and visible ash horizons from Icelandic volcanoes. Correlating these records allows identifying past Icelandic eruptions, and assessing  to be identified, with the impact of these eruptions on the climatic system.

Noemi Imfeld is a new PhD with the Climatology group. She did a Master in Climate Sciences at the University of Bern with a thesis entitled "Modeling seasonal and annual precipitation using long-term climate records and topography". Noemi’s research focus is on reconstructing daily weather for western Europe based on early-instrumental and documentary data to study climate variability. The working title of her PhD Thesis is “A daily weather reconstruction for Western Europe to study past climate variability”.

Florian Krauss is a new PhD student in the Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group. He did a Master in Marine Geosciences at the University of Bremen (core areas: glaciology, climate change and biogeochemistry) with a thesis entitled “Assessing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and n-alkanes across two volcanic events in an ice core from Kohnen station, Antarctica”. His research focus is on trace gases and organic compounds in ice core samples of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet. The working title of his PhD thesis will be “Continuous lasersublimation and laser spectroscopy – development and application in ice ore research”.

Franziska Lechleitner is a new Postdoc at the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA). She did her PhD at the ETH Zurich with a thesis entitled “Characterizing the legacy of carbon in karst systems: isotopic and chronological applications on stalagmites”. She then had a postdoctoral employment at the University of Oxford in the UK for three years and now returned has come back to Switzerland. She will be working on developing stalagmites as a novel terrestrial ecosystem archive, using the organic carbon 14C signature. She will further pursue this research in an Ambizione project starting in September.

Mason Majszak is a new PhD student with the Philosophy of science perspectives on the climate challenge group. He completed a Master Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with a thesis entitled “A Critical Analysis of the Methodology of Climate Change Detection and Attribution Studies”. His research focus is on the epistemology of climate change. He is interested in questions such as: How can we make and improve our knowledge claims about the climate, through methodological adjustments and a better understanding of the role scientific explanation plays in expert judgment?

Marianne Milano is new member of the Hydrology group. She is a lecturer at the University of Bern, as well as a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Lausanne. She did her PhD thesis entitled “Changements globaux en Méditerranée: impacts sur le stress hydrique et la capacité à satisfaire les demandes en eau.” at the University of Montpellier in collaboration with Plan Bleu, a regional activity center of the United Nations Environment Program. Her study areas are the watersheds in peri-urban (Switzerland) and arid environments (Brazil, Tunisia). Her teaching activities include the responsibility for the elaboration and animation of theoretical and practical classes in physical geography, in hydrology, on water management as well as on territory planning and protection (Bachelor and Master levels). Marianne is also supervising junior researchers carrying out research on the impacts of climate change on water resources and on water needs.

Jan Strähl is a new PhD at the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA). He did his Master in Chemistry at the University of Bern and conducted a thesis entitled "Development of a new wet extraction technique for the determination of CH4, N2O and CO2 mixing ratios in ice core samples" under the joint supervision of Hubertus Fischer and Sönke Szidat. His current field of work is the identification of sources of air-borne particulate matter in India. This project is funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and performed in collaboration with the Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry at PSI.

Tobias Wechsler is a PhD with the Hydrology group. His PhD research is jointly hosted at the WSL and the University of Bern and is co-directed by Dr. Massimiliano Zappa (WSL) and Prof. Bettina Schaefli (UniBe). Tobias Wechsler did a Master in Geography at the University of Bern. His research focus is on: hHydrology, cClimate change impact, hHydropower and lLake regulation. The working title of his PhD thesis is “Climate change impact on future water resources in Switzerland”.

A warm welcome to all of you!

Recent journal publications by OCCR members

See all the publications by OCCR members.