Overview on Research Structures

To fulfill our mission to understand Earth's changing climate, research at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is organized around two guiding questions:

  • How susceptible is the Earth system to perturbations? and
  • What are the limits of Earth system predictability?

The susceptibility of the Earth system describes how sensitively it responds to external perturbations. These perturbations could be variability in the strength of the sun, the variations in Earth’s orbit, volcanic eruptions, or the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gases such as CO2. Earth system predictability arises from long-term memory associated with components of the Earth system such as soil properties, sea ice, the stratosphere, the terrestrial and marine biosphere, ocean physics, ocean biogeochemistry, and land ice, the ways in which these subsystems interact with the system as a whole helps determine sources and limits of predictability.

At the MPI-M we see an opportunity to answer these questions through the innovative use and development of comprehensive Earth system models.  The development and use of such models is thus evident in much of our work, as it connects lines of inquiry in the individual departments of the institute, the observational strategies that we develop and pursue to complement the modelling, and the nature of the internal projects we embark upon as a whole. More information about the questions that guide us and our strategic outlook is provided in our strategic plan, Initiates file download2020Vision, and an overview to the major structural elements around which science in the institute is organized is provided below.

Scientific Departments

The Atmosphere in the Earth System
An overarching focus is to understand the general circulation of the atmosphere, and its role in Earth System dynamics.

The Land in the Earth System
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.

The Ocean in the Earth System
The activities of the department span almost all aspects of the ocean's role in climate dynamics.

Integrated Activities

Jointly with the German weather service, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) develops the ICON modelling 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:

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 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 project page >>>

Independent Research Groups

The Institute also hosts independent research groups.  Currently we have three, one in each department.  Two are funded through a special program of the Max Planck Society, the third is funded through DFG's Emmy Noether programme.