Award 2013: Dr. Franziska Strauss and Dr. Sebastian Bathiany
In the festive atmosphere of the CliSAP New Year’s Reception, Dr. Franziska Strauss (Central Institute of Meteorology and Geodynamics, Vienna) and Dr. Sebastian Bathiany (Max Planck Institute for Meteorology) were awarded the Wladimir Peter Köppen Award.
Franziska Strauss impressed the jury with her interdisciplinary work entitled “Modeling climate change and impacts on crop production in Austria,” in the course of which she investigated the impacts of climate change on agricultural production. She had previously developed an innovative statistical climate model for Austria at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. “When it comes to success in research, it’s a lot like the movie business,” claimed Prof. María Máñez Costa of the Climate Service Center, one of the prize presenters. “Some directors win plenty of prizes, and others don’t win any.” If that’s true, Franziska Strauss would appear to be a talented director, having deftly chosen her theme, script and cast: a subject directly related to climate research; a cumulative doctoral thesis with articles published in prominent journals like Climatic Change; and a combination of three scientific models. Máñez Costa also applauded Strauss’ findings as a valuable contribution toward developing future climate and agricultural policies.
The dissertation of the second Köppen Award winner, Sebastian Bathiany, looks back over 5,000 years to the African wet period in what is today’s Saharan arid zone. Bathiany focused on the academic debate over whether this period ended abruptly or gradually. For his doctoral thesis at CliSAP’s SICSS Graduate School he analyzed various approaches to explaining the change in vegetation, e.g. from lush to sparse. Prof. emeritus Jürgen Sündermann from the Institute of Oceanography/CEN praised Bathiany’s thesis as a pioneering work that clearly depicts the problems involved in assessing climate simulations. He went on to say that, though the work incorporated a high level of theoretical reasoning, it nonetheless used a “thorough, straightforward and consistent” format to present the topic in just 100 pages. Parts of the cumulative dissertation had been published as papers in journals like Climate Dynamics. In his acceptance speech, the prizewinner emphasized the great responsibility shared by climate researchers: “Given the complexity of our climate, we have to be extremely careful when it comes to making prognoses.”