On 16th April the Swiss global change research community met for the 14th time on the Swiss Global Change Day in Bern. About 250 participants attended the event and almost 80 posters were presented, giving an overview of global change research activities in Switzerland.
Heinz Gutscher, chair of the ProClim steering committee, welcomed the audience, and in particular the participants from IGBP who took the chance to attend the Swiss Global Change Day, since the IGBP meeting took place the same week in Bern. Sybil P. Seitzinger, Executive Director of IGBP, briefly introduced IGBP and its core projects. She emphasized the importance of Swiss scientists within IGBP. Seitzinger also encouraged young researchers to get involved with IGBP and pointed to the websites of IGBP and the core projects, the newsletters, conferences, workshops and summer schools. Seitzinger finished by raising awareness for Future Earth, which will become the common roof of IGBP, IHDP and DIVERSITAS by 2014.
James P.M. Syvitski from the University of Colorado, US, focused on sea level rise and the importance of the climate signal in comparison to human-induced coastal subsidence. He emphasized that global sea level rise is an average value, often of little concern for the people living along the coast. At a particular coast, relative effects are usually dominant. Thus, the impact of deltas or fish farms, for instance, may be far more important than global effects. Syvitski concluded by estimating the contribution of the climate signal to regional sea level rise to just about 10 per cent so far. However, climate change impacts might become much more important if storm surge frequency or river flooding were to increase. (--> Presentation, 4.2 MB)
Patricia A. Matrai from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, US, talked about primary production in the Arctic Ocean. She focused on the influence of environmental change on primary producers. One important factor is light, which will increase due to ice loss. However, primary production is not a simple function of light, but increases with more light up to a certain point and then decreases again. Furthermore, ice melt and surface warming also mean a more stable stratification, resulting in low nutrient supply (as another grow limiting factor) to the surface. All in all, the mechanisms are very complex and there will be contrasting changes, meaning e.g. gains and losses for different regional fish industries. (--> Presentation, 3.4 MB)
Stefanie Hellweg from ETH Zurich introduced first results of studies about consumption and the environment. In particular, she focused on Life Cycle Assessment of consumption patterns. With regard to climate change, housing, nutrition, and mobility are the most important consumption areas in Switzerland. They account for two thirds of climate change impact. Hellweg pointed out that changing people’s habits would not be easy. Furthermore, minimizing environmental impacts requires considering various other impacts apart from climate change, such as, for instance, ozone depletion, eutrophication or land stress. (--> Presentation, 2.2 MB)
Konrad Steffen, Director of WSL, looked at the dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet as a result of global warming. Due to the impact of climate change, the surface mass balance has been negative since 1996. Furthermore, ice sheet melt area has increased by 65 per cent since 1979. The acceleration of melting gives rise to the question whether the negative trend will continue to accelerate. Steffen suggests that the mass loss of Greenland will slow down once the outlet glaciers lose contact to the sea (no more calving) and melting will become the dominant ablation process. However, up to now, there is no model available that fully represents the dynamics of the ice sheet. (--> Presentation, 5.4 MB)
Raymond S. Bradley from the Climate Research Center, US, focused on abrupt climate change and its triggers. He looked at abrupt changes in the past related to the 8.2 ky event, to Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events. These abrupt climate changes coincided with a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) caused by a rapid freshwater discharge originating either from the melting of ice sheets in the northern hemisphere, or as a new hypothesis, originating from a freshwater input related to a rapid disintegration of the arctic sea ice and the superimposed snow/ice cover. However, the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood and require further research. (--> Presentation, 3 MB)
Vittorio Loreto from the Sapienza University of Rome gave an insight on the complexity of environmental awareness and learning. By means of various examples he showed how people could get involved into science and research-related tasks. Loreto suggested that turning citizens into “sensors” might be a first step to raising environmental awareness. According to him, involving people in research by encouraging them to gather data enhances their awareness and learning and may eventually lead to behavioral changes. However, there is still a long way to go. (--> Presentation, 8.3 MB)
In the poster session the best posters in the fields of WCRP and IGBP were selected by a jury and honored with a travel award of 1000 Swiss francs each. Since the participation in the fields of IHDP and DIVERSITAS was very low, no prizes could be awarded. Hopefully, there will be more posters handed in next year.
The following posters were awarded:
WCRP (awards were sponsored by the ACP, the Commission for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, SCNAT):