ERC Consolidator Grant for Thorsten Mauritsen

Dr. Thorsten Mauritsen | Gruppenleiter in der Abteilung „Atmosphäre im Erdsystem“ / group leader in the department „The Atmosphere in the Earth System“ | MPI-M

On 29 November 2017 the European Research Council (ERC) announced the names of 329 scientists, who are awarded a Consolidator Grant in the 2017 call for proposals. Dr Thorsten Mauritsen, group leader in the department „The Atmosphere in the Earth System“ at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) receives a grant for his proposal „Reining in the upper bound on Earth’s Climate Sensitivities”. 56 of 329 Consolidator Grants go to Germany, one of them to Hamburg. The ERC Consolidator Grants fund excellent junior scientists in the consolidation phase  (7-12 years after the doctorate) with 2 Mio EUR over 5 years.

Thorsten Mauritsen’s research topic in his working group „climate dynamics“ is climate sensitivity. It is a measure of the change of the global mean surface temperature of the Earth that arises from doubling the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, CO2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated the range of climate sensitivity to likely be between 1.5 and 4.5°C in its Fifth Assessment Report, thus encompassing an uncertainty that has not narrowed since the early assessments of climate sensitivity in the 1970's. This uncertainty Thorsten Mauritsen wants to reduce by conducting unconventional and innovative research to estimate especially the upper bound of climate sensitivity.
Thorsten Mauritsen will confront leading hypotheses of extreme cloud feedbacks, the primary potential source of high climate sensitivity, with observations from the full instrumental- and satellite records, and proxies from warm- and cold past climates. He wants furthermore to investigate how ocean- and atmospheric circulations impact cloud feedbacks, and seek the limits for how much past greenhouse warming could have been masked by aerosol cooling.

A high climate sensitivity implies significant climate change and is therefore of importance for political decisions in avoiding, or adapting to climate change. Even with a lower limit for climate sensitivity at 1.5°C, the politically desired target to remain under a global warming of 2°C cannot be reached without mitigation strategies. However, the risks associated with high climate sensitivity are far more serious, and in certain regions the consequent warming cannot be handled with adaptation measures alone. For instance, if areas become uninhabitable, the reduction of costs that originate from climate change is no longer relevant; e.g. if low-lying regions or islands are flooded due to rising sea levels, or if temperature and humidity rise so much that they will be fatal for animals and humans.

Thorsten Mauritsen studied physics and meteorology at the Universities of Copenhagen and Stockholm. In Stockholm he received his Ph.D. in 2007. After a postdoc time in Stockholm he works now at the MPI-M as scientist and group leader since 2009.

ERC press release:

Focus on: Climate sensitivity

Dr Thorsten Mauritsen
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
Phone: +49 (0) 40 41173 182
Email: thorsten.mauritsen@we dont want