Overview on Research Structures

To fulfill our mission to understand Earth's changing climate, research at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is organized around two guiding questions:

  • How susceptible is the Earth system to perturbations? and
  • What are the limits of Earth system predictability?

The susceptibility of the Earth system describes how sensitively it responds to external perturbations. These perturbations could be variability in the strength of the sun, the variations in Earth’s orbit, volcanic eruptions, or the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gases such as CO2. Earth system predictability arises from long-term memory associated with components of the Earth system such as soil properties, sea ice, the stratosphere, the terrestrial and marine biosphere, ocean physics, ocean biogeochemistry, and land ice, the ways in which these subsystems interact with the system as a whole helps determine sources and limits of predictability.


At the MPI-M we see an opportunity to answer these questions through the innovative use and development of comprehensive Earth system models.  The development and use of such models is thus evident in much of our work, as it connects lines of inquiry in the individual departments of the institute, the observational strategies that we develop and pursue to complement the modelling, and the nature of the internal projects we embark upon as a whole. More information about the questions that guide us and our strategic outlook is provided in our strategic plan, Initiates file download2020Vision, and an overview to the major structural elements around which science in the institute is organized is provided below.


Scientific Departments

The Atmosphere in the Earth System

An overarching focus is to understand the general circulation of the atmosphere, and its role in Earth System dynamics.


The Land in the Earth System

The goal of this department is to investigate the development of the mutual interactions between land surface, climate, and mankind in the past and in the future.


The Ocean in the Earth System

The activities of the department span almost all aspects of the ocean's role in climate dynamics.

Internal Projects


  • CMIP5 - Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, this project finalized the development and secured the release of the MPI-ESM, our first generation Earth System Model. More information about CMIP5 is also available as part of the Research News feature which appeared on our home page during February 2012.  Initiates file downloadpdf
  • ICON - Development of a next generation numerical model, one that is capable of better exploiting advances in high performance computing. More information about ICON is also available as part of the Research News feature which appeared on our home page during November 2011. Initiates file downloadpdf
  • STORM - STORM is a community effort aiming at multi-century climate change simulations with the global coupled atmosphere-ocean model ECHAM6-JSBACH/MPIOM at the cutting-edge horizontal and vertical resolution.

Independant Research Groups

The Institute also hosts independent research groups.  Currently we have three, one in each department.  Two are funded through a special program of the Max Planck Society, the third is funded through DFG's Emmy Noether programme.