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Climate Research

Against the background of the debate on contemporary climate change, it is critical to distinguish anthropogenic climate change from natural climate variability. By drawing on historical sources, climates of the past can be reconstructed while also analyzing the societal mechanisms for adjusting to changing climatic conditions.
For interpreting and evaluating contemporary debate about climate and climate change, it is important to know how climate evolved historically. On the one hand, historical climate analysis offers crucial points of comparison of contemporary climates with periods of natural or quasi-natural climatic fluctuations and extremes. On the other hand, many contemporary ideas, perceptions, but also fears, errors and myths about the climate are historically rooted. For example, the question of whether or not future climate can be predicted has been a societal desire and need since time immemorial – a need that has always been met with information differing significantly in accuracy. Climate has always been subject to human interpretation and often controversial discourses, such as differentiating between earlier "God given" climates and today’s stereotypical "man-made" climate. Analyzing historical climates allows for comparisons between the present and the past and thus provides ample opportunities for better understanding both historical and contemporary climatic processes. Retrospective assessment of the climate and climate change is typically based on standardized, official instrument time series. However, relevant data series usually only date back to the mid-19th century. Using historical analyses, additional data can be included, drawing on early, non-standardized instrument recordings, which date back to the 17th Century. Beyond that time frame, more relevant data can be gleaned from written sources, such as city chronicles, personal and harvest diaries, annals and many other forms of written tradition.

Research Interests related to Climate Research

  • Deciphering the fluvio-social metabolism of the Upper Rhine area (DEMUR) - Factors and actors in the transformation towards a fluvial anthroposphere prior to the industrial period
    Project Manager
    Blöthe J, Glaser R, Preusser F, Schenk G
    Start/End of Project
    01.01.2023 until 31.03.2026
    Human influence has long interfered with natural floodplain evolution. While the indirect effects of deforestation on sediment transport and floodplain dynamics have been extensively researched, the socio-ecological processes and feedback mechanisms that determine how fluvial systems evolve along trajectories and path dependencies have only recently entered the scientific debate. We use the concept of a fluvio-social metabolism to illustrate these complex interdependencies between anthropogenic and natural processes that define how natural river systems transitioned into a fluvial anthroposphere. The aim of the project is to decipher the fluvio-social metabolism along path-dependencies and trajectories and to understand system dynamics of the fluvial anthroposphere in the Upper Rhine area. We focus on three specific aspects and their mutual interdependencies: socio-political systems, climate dynamics, and legacy sediments, integrating social and environmental archives as well as detailed laboratory and geostatistical analysis. By combining quantitative, semi-quantitative and qualitative methods we combine social and natural sciences. We seek to determine integrating indicators for the transition from natural floodplains to a fluvial anthroposphere on multiple spatio-temporal scales. Our research analyses the period from medieval times until the onset of the industrial revolution in the region around 1850 with focus on suspected transition periods. We hypothesise that in this fluvio-social system, specific socio-natural and political constellations, including territorial shifts, economical exploitation, institutions, conflicts, climatic variability and extremes, as well as riverine floods, determined path dependencies and trajectories of fluvial landscape evolution that found their expression in the floodplain record as legacy sediments. We follow a multidisciplinary approach that integrates the expertise from different disciplines, combining historic, climatic, and geomorphologic expertise. In three interlinking work packages, we investigate how 1) actors, socio-political constellations and institutions influenced floodplain development, 2) regional climate variability and extreme events impacted socio-ecological processes, and 3) natural and societal dynamics found their expression in the floodplain sedimentary record. Synthesising these various strands of social, climatic and geomorphologic results, we ultimately aim to integrate our insights into deciphering the fluvio-social metabolism. Finally, we evaluate to which degree our results can contribute to model this dynamic fluvio-social metabolism empirically, numerically and multivariate-statistically.
    Contact Person
    Blöthe J
    Phone: 203-9224
  • Seamless coupling of kilometer-resolution weather predictions and climate simulations with hail impact assessments for multiple sectors (scClim)
    Project Manager
    Seamless coupling of kilometer-resolution weather predictions and climate simulations with hail impact assessments for multiple sectors (scClim)
    Start/End of Project
    01.02.2022 until 01.02.2025
    Socio-economic impacts of weather phenomena in a changing climate are a concern for government agencies, industry and the public, on time scales from hours (warnings) to decades (adaptation, long-term strategic planning). This project focuses on thunderstorm-related severe weather, in particular hail, one of the main weather-related damage drivers in Central Europe for agricultural crops and infrastructure, and related impacts today and in future. For further information see
    SNF (Swiss National Science Foundation), Funding Scheme: Sinergia Grant