Global Climate Dynamics and Diagnostics

Earth fotographed from outer space

The aim of our first research focus is to understand how the earth's system with its three main components "atmosphere", "terrestrial ecosystems" and "oceans" reacts to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Only by understanding these processes can quantitative predictions be made for the future, the causes of climate change identified and uncertainties estimated. This will make it possible to make statements about the present and the future which are relevant to society. We are looking for answers to questions such as: Do climate changes happen faster today than in the past? How have large terrestrial ecosystems as well as animals and plants adapted to the changes? How stable is the oceans' circulation? Does the water vapour content of the global atmosphere change as a result of climate change?

Using natural climate archives such as ice cores, lake sediments, stalagmites and tree rings, but also historical documents, we look back several thousand years and investigate how natural driving factors (the sun and volcanoes) and anthropogenic disturbances (greenhouse gases, land use, aerosols) have changed the climate and how ecosystems react to such changes. The comprehensive reconstruction of the climate of the past is a core competency of the Oeschger Centre. The long proxy data and measurements series in Europe and in Switzerland allow climate reconstructions of a quality unique in the world. They provide detailed input into the long-term diagnosis of atmospheric dynamics (pressure, precipitation and temperature), the causes of variations in climate and the statistics of extreme events.