Award 2011: Dr. Ines Heßler and Dr. Florian Rauser

"The decision was very hard this year", says jury member Prof. Jürgen Sündermann. "The nominated dissertations all had a very high scientific level. So we decided to honour two young scientists this time, whose theses were particularly innovative and forward-looking." The award will go the geologist Ines Hessler from MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at University of Bremen and the physicist Florian Rauser from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg.

Ines Heßler, Marum

In her dissertation, Ines Hessler focused on climate change during the last ice age. She investigated marine sediments which were deposited off the southwest African coasts. These serve as a climate archive, because they contain information about changes in ocean circulation and the vegetation of the neighboring  continent during the last glacial period. The scientist used plant pollen as a window to the past. With the help of millennia-old pollen deposits, Ines Hessler reconstructed the vegetation and climate history of Angola and the southern Congo basin. In addition, she analyzed the deposits of calcareous plankton, thus revealing fluctuations in the oceanic currents off the coast of Angola during that cold period. These results allowed conclusions regarding the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean. By means of her evaluation of vegetation data sets from tropical Africa and South America, the geologist also demonstrateed the relationship between abrupt climate changes during the last ice age and the change in the regional vegetation.

Florian Rauser, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

In his climate modelling work, Florian Rauser investigated a key question in geophysical fluid dynamics: how can error be quantified in the numerical simulation of gases and liquids? For this, he employed a new method for model-independent error assessment. His core statement is that grid-based computer models of any complexity can learn for themselves where they produce error using the algorithm developed by him – without the user having to understand the fine details of the model. “Florian Rauser has made a fundamental contribution to the evaluation of the reliability of models in the field of geophysical fluid dynamics. His work is not only methodological but also very innovative scientifically”, according to the jury.

This year’s prize winners share the honour but not the award money. Each of them can use the full amount to forward scientific ambitions.