Climate Research: Hamburg Köppen Prize 2012 to Switzerland

Prize winner 2012: Elias Zubler

Junior researcher Elias Markus Zubler has successfully managed to embed the influence of aerosol particles – suspended particles in the atmosphere – on temperature, precipitation and clouds into a regional climate model. Therewith, he has developed an important basic tool to improve future climate predictions.

As the jury of the Wladimir Peter Köppen Prize has announced today, the prize was granted to the 31 year old Swiss for his outstanding doctoral thesis on this topic. The annually awarded research prize of Hamburg's Excellence Cluster CliSAP of the University of Hamburg is worth EUR 5,000 and will be awarded in a festive manner in January 2013. Elias Markus Zubler completed his doctoral thesis at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich last year.

Aerosol particles are floating dust, formed for example by sand, soot particles, sulfate particles, or plant particles. They can support the development of clouds, thus influencing weather and climate. However, up to now aerosol in regional climate models has only been considered in a very simplified manner. Elias Markus Zubler used modules which take the microphysics of aerosol in interactive form into consideration and come very closely to natural processes – and he integrated them into an existing model. Now, for example the percentage of soot particles and carbon particles, sea salt, and mineral dust can be calculated separately. Further, the new model distinguishes between cloud droplets and raindrops, cloud ice, and soft hail.

Thus, Zubler was able to show for example that the influence of clouds on solar radiation is stronger than the effect by aerosol alone. For the Alpine region, he proved that aerosol particles can change precipitation patterns. When the air was very dirty, the precipitation was reduced partially by half, as Zubler provided with statistical evidence in 270 simulations. His work shows clearly that previous regional models have insufficiently considered the influence of aerosols.

“Zubler's findings will make regional and global climate models more realistic. In climate sciences, we need such outstanding talents who implement their fresh ideas into dominant research,” says Martin Claußen, spokesperson for the Hamburg Excellence Cluster CliSAP at the KlimaCampus. “The Köppen Prize wants to create an additional incentive for this purpose and has found a worthy prize winner 2012 with Elias Zubler.”