Oeschger News (May 2012)

Successful Symposium on Documentary Data

The symposium The Relevance of Historical Documentary Data for the Debate about Climate and Natural Hazards on 3 May 2012 at the University of Bern caused much interest with researchers and practitioners involved in the management of natural risks. More than 70 persons attended the lectures and workshops organized by the OCCR and the Swiss GCOS (Global Climate Observing System) office. The event not only served to discuss the potential of documentary data for improving risk assessments of natural hazards such as floods it also provided the platform for the public launch of Euro-Climhist, an online database developed at the OCCR by Christian Pfister and colleagues. This unique tool allows the interested public to access 120'000 entries on past climate and extreme events since 1550 which were gathered from historical documents.

OCCR activities and researchers in the media

The work of the OCCR is regularly featured in Swiss and international media. In the past weeks for example This Ruthishauser from the Climatology Group was interviewed by the BBC online service on a Nature report which claims that models are failing to accurately predict the impact of global warming on plants. The quote reads: "The bottom line is that the impacts might be bigger than we have believed until now. That's going to provoke a lot of work to probably revise modelling results for estimations of what's going to happen in the future for food production especially." Jürg Fuhrer and Pierluigi Calanca from the Air Pollution/Climate Group were featured in the NZZ's Climate and Environment blog with a study on how cows cope with heat stress due to climate change. And the launch of the OCCR's Euro-Climhist made it into the online services not only of NZZ and Bund but also 20 Minuten and Blick.

Ice from Colle Gnifetti glacier presented in South Korea

The Analytical Chemistry Research Group of the OCCR at the Paul Scherrer Institut wins honour with an ice core. The piece of ice was extracted in 2003 from the Colle Gnifetti glacier in the Swiss Alps by Margit Schwikowski and her team. Now the core has become the central exhibition piece of the Swiss Pavilion at the Expo 2012 in South Korea. The piece of ice is 4,000 years old and thus originates from the time period when the first ancient kingdom in Korea was founded. The core was dated with the novel radiocarbon method in the frame of the NCCR climate projects VITA and VIVALDI.

The OCCR Management Centre moves home

Due to renovation works the OCCR Management Centre is forced to leave its offices at Falkenplatz 16 for six months. We will be relocated sometimes in early June at Friedbühlstrasse 11 in a former school building close to the Insel hospital. Phone numbers, mailing address and e-mail addresses remain unchanged. The closest bus stop is "Bremgartenfriedhof" of line no 11.

Lorenz Martin leaves the OCCR Management Centre

Lorenz Martin who has served as a science officer at the OCCR and NCCR Climate Management Centre for the past 7 years has accepted a new position. He returns to his professional roots as a physicist and will teach physics at the Department of Engineering and Information Technology at the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Biel. The chair he was appointed to comprises research activities as well. Lorenz Martin was responsible for the Graduate School among other duties at the OCCR, he will leave at the beginning of June. Many thanks for your commitment and all the best to you, Lorenz!

Michael Riffler is the new OCCR science officer

Michael Riffler will replace Lorenz Martin as OCCR science officer as of 1 June 2012. He gained his PhD with the Remote Sensing Research Group at the Department of Geography at the University of Bern. His thesis was called Toward a 20-Year Climatology of Aerosol Optical Depth from NOAA AVHRR over Central Europe. He then worked in the private sector in the field of satellite meteorology with Meteomedia AG and currently holds a PostDoc position at the Remote Sensing Research Group. A warm welcome!

How to improve proxy reconstructions

One of the goals of the OCCR is to foster the collaboration and exchange of data and methods among the different research groups. While each group works towards improved knowledge in its individual field, it is the interdisciplinary studies that mark the occasional milestone in climate science. A recent study by Flavio Lehner of the Earth System Modeling ? Atmosphere Ocean Dynamics group and colleagues exemplifies the value of such a knowledge exchange. A proxy-based reconstruction of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) has been tested with climate models and reanalysis datasets. The study shows evidence that the concept the proxy reconstruction is based on is not robust. Using the spatial and temporal information of transient model simulations the authors could demonstrate the limitations of the proxy locations in describing the atmospheric circulation patterns associated with the NAO. However, the authors were also able to depict possible ways of improving the existing reconstruction concept. To that end, the study presents a set of tests that could easily be applied to reconstructions of other climate parameters. The authors hope that this exercise encourages paleoclimatologists to get in contact with modelers to have their reconstruction tested in a model framework.

Christian Rohr holds Inaugural Lecture

Professor Christian Rohr, head of the OCCR's Environmental History and Historical Climatology group will hold his Inaugural Lecture on Tuesday 22 May on the The Green Martyry (Nur ein "grünes Martyrium"? Skizzen zur Beziehung von Mensch und Natur im Frühmittelalter) at 18:15, Hörraumtrakt Unitobler, Lerchenweg 36, 3012 Bern Hörsaal F022. After the lecture you are invited to an Apéro.

Oliver Heiri appointed Assistant Professor

Oliver Heiri, head of the OCCR's Aquatic Paleoecology Group was appointed Assistant Professor by the University of Bern's directorate. Congratulations!

Past climate and geological repositories for radioactive waste

A project that Christoph Raible and colleagues from Earth System Modeling - Atmosphere Ocean Dynamics Group are carrying out on behalf of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate ENSI has been extended. The project "Climate Modelling of the Weichselian Glacial Period" was launched in 2010 to assess the impact of different glacial boundary conditions on the atmospheric dynamics and the precipitation pattern in the European region. Changes in the precipitation pattern during glacial periods are important as they steer the growth of glaciers and thus, the potential of deep erosion, which has to be considered in the planning of deep geological repositories for radioactive waste. Deep geological repositories for radioactive waste need to be save for up to one million years. For such a long perspective glacial periods and the potential influence of deep erosion due to glaciers have to be considered for the repository sites.

OCCR-ISSI-CSH Networking Event ? register now

Bern hosts three institutions that deal, among other topics with the Earth's atmosphere: the Oeschger Centre OCCR, the International Space Science Institute ISSI and the newly established Centre for Space and Habitability CSH. On 11 June 2012, form 15:15 to 16:45 a joint OCCR-ISSI-CSH Networking Event will be organized followed by an Apéro. The event takes place in the UniS building in room A022 and aims at introducing the three institutions to each other and thus to explore potential synergies. The event is open to everybody.

Fruitful collaboration between Bern and Guiyang

The OCCR's Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA) has established new collaboration with Prof. Xinqing Lee from the Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences at Guiyang. In March 2012, Sönke Szidat, the head of the group visited China for the collection of biochar samples for geochemical investigation. In May 2012, Xinqing Lee came to Bern and gave a fascinating presentation of the role of paleoclimate change on rise and fall of some dynasties in Chinese history in the seminar of the Laboratory of Radiochemistry and Environmental Chemistry. The analyses of the biochar samples will be conducted within the next months both at Guiyang and at Bern.

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Konstantinos Agrios is a new PhD student in the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA). He did is Master in Chemistry at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. His research interests are: radiocarbon analysis, aerosols, instrumental development.

Florian Arfeuille is a new PostDoc in the Climatology Group. He works on the climate impacts of volcanic eruptions and on the analysis of simulations from an atmosphere-ocean-chemistry-climate model which cover the 1600 ? 2100 period (FUPSOL project). He did his PhD at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate science at ETH Zürich, focusing on the study of the stratospheric impacts of large volcanic eruptions, analysing notably the Pinatubo (1991) and Tambora (1815) eruptions. Before moving to Switzerland he obtained a Master in Climate Science from the University of Versailles in France.

Ivan Hernandez Almeida is a new PostDoc at the Lake Sediments and Paleolimnology Group. He is a marine geologist/micropaleontologist and holds a PhD from the University of Salamanca in Spain. He has been investigating rapid changes in the North Atlantic at the Mid-Pleistocene Transition and will now work on Chrysophyte cyst-based cold season temperature reconstructions in Poland.

Christin Erb is a new PhD student at Environmental and Climate Economics Group. She did a Master of Science in Economics at the University of Bern and has worked as a research assistant at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. Her research interests are: Environmental and Climate Economics, Computable General Equilibrium Models, Adaptation.

Johannes Schindler is a new PhD student at the Analytical Chemistry Research Group at the Paul Scherrer Institut.

Chloé Wüst is a new scientific collaborator in the Air Pollution/Climate Group at Agroscope ART. She holds a PhD from the University of Zurich and works in a FOEN-funded project led by Jens Leifeld und Andreas Grünig. The aim of the project is to extend the database concerning drained organic soils in Switzerland which are currently under agricultural use. These soils represent an important source of CO2 due to soil organic matter degradation.

A big welcome to all of you!

Researchers who have recently left the OCCR:

Christian Kamenik has left the Lake Sediments and Paleolimnology group. He joined the group in 2004 as a PostDoc to work in the NCCR Climate VITA project, then he was part of the EU FP6 project "Millennium: European Climate of the last 1000 years" and finally he was involved in the project "Climate of NE Poland during the last 1000 years".

Patrick Kuss has left the Plant Ecology Group and now works at the University of Zurich, Institute of System Botany.

All the best to you!