A new Emmy Noether junior research group at Heidelberg University’s Institute of Earth Sciences will delve into the central questions of climate history. The research team led by Dr. Jörg Lippold will study the history of ocean currents over the last 30,000 years in an attempt to uncover key parameters for understanding future climatic changes. Over the next five years, the German Research Foundation (DFG) will fund the project in the amount of over one million euros.
"The oceans represent a central component of our planet’s climate system. Our approach to exploring future climate change is to investigate the changes in these water masses over time and space to better understand the dynamics of the climate system", explains Lippold. His "Past Ocean Dynamics" group will examine how the ocean currents changed in response to dramatic fluctuations in climate in the transition from the ice age to the interglacial period. Their investigations should provide insight into how past climate events can serve as a "model" for today’s melting glaciers in Greenland. The researchers also hope to determine what role ocean circulation plays in the long-range storage of CO2.
One of the project’s primary goals is to establish quantitatively the circulation of the ocean’s dominant water masses by measuring deep sea sediments. The researchers are particularly interested in the dramatic climate transitions of the past, such as when icebergs inundated the North Atlantic in the last ice age and weakened the Gulf Stream. "Until now we have had almost no data to tell us how the transport processes in the water work. So we don’t have a basis for models that allow us to reliably simulate climate fluctuations in the past or the future", explains the Heidelberg researcher. Nonetheless, there are clear indications that ocean dynamics have recurrently changed throughout climate history. "But we still lack a robust quantitative reconstruction of ocean circulation", continues Dr. Lippold.
Jörg Lippold studied physics and astronomy at Tübingen University and earned his doctorate at the Institute of Environmental Physics of Heidelberg University in 2008. His postdoctoral work focused on the measurement of radioactive substances in deep sea sediments. As a Marie Curie Fellow of the European Commission, he joined the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research of the University of Bern in 2014. He returned to Heidelberg in the summer of 2016 and will spend the next few months assembling his Emmy Noether junior research team at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Ruperto Carola.