Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M), located in Hamburg, is an internationally renowned institute for climate research. It comprises three research departments,

and five independent research groups

  • Cloud-wave coupling, led by Dr. Claudia Stephan
  • Forest Management in the Earth System, led by Dr. Julia Pongratz

Research Topics at MPI-M

The department “The Atmosphere in the Earth System”, led by Prof. Dr. Bjorn Stevens, focuses on understanding the general circulation of the atmosphere, and its role in Earth System dynamics. The particular emphasis is on processes that regulate the flow of energy through the system, especially the distribution of clouds and water vapour. Questions that are of interest include: What controls the planetary albedo? What determines the structure of the hydrological cycle? What is the role of middle and upper atmospheric processes in determining the surface climate? Initiatives within the department include the development of a next generation Earth System Model (ICON) and the development of a new observational facility on the Caribbean island of Barbados for investigating the interplay of aerosols, clouds and precipitation.

The department “The Land in the Earth System” is headed by Prof. Dr. Martin Claussen. The land surface as part of the Earth system affects regional and global climate; in turn, climate shapes the structure of the land surface, especially the global distribution of forests, steppes, and dry regions. Meanwhile mankind has drastically modified his habitat – the land surface. The goal of this department is to investigate the development of the mutual interactions between land surface, climate, and mankind in the past and in the future. This will be accomplished by the application of models, in situ measurements, and satellite observations.

The activities of the department “The Ocean in the Earth System”, directed by Prof. Dr. Jochem Marotzke, span almost all aspects of the ocean's role in climate dynamics. Areas of interest range from the mechanisms of ocean-climate dynamics and biogeochemistry over glacial-interglacial cycles, to the behaviour of the ocean meridional overturning circulation in a future world with enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations. The main research tools are coupled ocean-atmosphere and Earth system models, but observations, statistical analysis, and data assimilation are also employed to improve the understanding of the past, current, and future ocean. Important initiatives within the department are the development of the ocean component of ICON and the building of a system for decadal climate prediction.

These departments and research groups work closely together toward a common goal: to understand the changing climate of our Earth. Scientists at MPI-M investigate what determines the sensitivity of the Earth system to perturbations such as the changing composition of its atmosphere, and work toward establishing the sources and limits of predictability within the Earth system. MPI-M develops and analyses sophisticated models of the Earth system, which simulate the processes within atmosphere, land and ocean. Such models have developed into important tools for understanding the behaviour of our climate, and they form the basis for international assessments of climate change. These computer simulations allow not only for describing past climate changes but also for estimating future changes. Targeted in-situ measurements and satellite observations complement the model simulations.

Broad Network of Research Activities

The models of MPI-M are also made available to the international scientific community. Moreover, the models of MPI-M have been the basis of the German contribution to the Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – most recently to the 5th Assessment Report, which was published in 2013.

Located in Hamburg, MPI-M is integrated into a broader network of research activities: Together with the University  Hamburg and several non-university research institutions  and public authorities MPI-M constitutes the KlimaCampus Hamburg, a unique network for climate research, climate change climate impact in Hamburg, Germany. MPI-M collaborates as well with the German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ), which provides high-performance computing support. Furthermore, the International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling (IMPRS-ESM), a multi- and interdisciplinary doctoral program that associates several German research institutions, is located at MPI-M.

MPI-M's Role within the Earth System Research Partnership

Within the Earth System Research Partnership MPI-M sees itself as the integrating node of the modelling work. MPI-M takes the lead in synthesizing the component models into a comprehensive Earth system model and in performing experiments with this model.

MPI-M coordinated two missions on the research aircraft HALO: NARVAL (North Atlantic Rainfall VALidation) and flights in support of the Barbados Field Study EUREC4A (Elucidating the role of clouds-circulation coupling in climate).



Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
Bundesstrasse 53
20146 Hamburg, Germany
Phone: +49 40 41173 0

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