Overview on Research Structures

Research within the institute is organized in departments, each with a director, and each with its own particular interests and culture of addressing them. We have the good fortune that our interests overlap, and we do our best to exploit this overlap to advance our research in ways that would not be possible if we worked alone. An important way in which we do this is by working together in developing our models, which we aim to be at the forefront of developments worldwide. Even with very large (almost unimaginably so) computers, calculating Earth’s climate is not straightforward. Part of the problem is computational, the computers still aren’t large enough; and part is conceptual, the governing dynamics are still not sufficiently understood. This requires shortcuts, either in how we formulate the equations, or how we compute their solutions. We take two approaches; one — which we call Sapphire — extrapolates to the climate from the near-term behavior of the global weather, computed over a nearly complete range of scales. Another — which we call Ruby — forgoes an accurate description of the weather, in the hope that it doesn’t sensitively influence the climate. The first approach most readily finds favor with those that study the atmosphere, the second with those that study the ocean. Those studying the biosphere are faced with even larger challenges, and make the best of both approaches.

Scientific Departments

The Atmosphere in the Earth System
We are interested in understanding how atmospheric water conditions Earth’s climate, and climate change. This leads us to think in a process sort of way, and also be interested in observations, which are well adapted to quantifying processes, like the life-cycle of storms, or the interaction of waves in the atmosphere with systems of winds.

The Ocean in the Earth System
Our department uses models, observations, and theory to investigate the role of the ocean in climate variability and climate change on all timescales from hours to millennia. Some ocean-specific work is pursued solely within the department. Other work on interactions within the Earth system often occurs through collaboration with the other departments at the MPI-M.

Independent Research Groups

The Institute also hosts independent research groups. Currently we have one group in the department „The Atmosphere in the Earth System". The group is funded through a special program of the Max Planck Society.

Integrated Activities

Jointly with the German weather service, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) develops the ICON modeling system for a broad range of applications. Within this framework, MPI-M develops and maintains the ICON Earth system model (ICON-ESM) and the large eddy resolving model (ICON-LEM).

Project pages:
ICON Sapphire (ICON-LEM)

The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) is an international endeavour to better understand past, present and future climate changes. Referring to the Grand Science Challenges of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), CMIP6 aims to answer three broad questions:

(i) How does the Earth system respond to forcing?,

(ii) What are the origins and consequences of systematic model biases?, and

(iii) How can we assess future climate changes given climate variability, predictability and uncertainties in scenarios?

Link to the CMIP6 project page

Grand Ensemble
The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) Grand Ensemble (MPI-GE) is the largest ensemble of a single state-of-the-art comprehensive climate model currently available.

The Grand Ensemble consists of five Large Ensembles of 100 simulations each under different forcing scenarios. This ensemble allows the separation of the forced signal from the model internal variability. It allows us to address questions that could not be answered in the past, such as: Does internal variability change under different forcing conditions?

Link to the Grand Ensemble project page