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Palaeoclimate dynamics and variability

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State and timescale-dependency of climate variability from the last Glacial to present day

The central aim of the group is to explore and quantify changes of climate variability in the past, the role (global) mean temperature played them, and to assess how well climate models can reflect them. We focus predominantly on the time period from the last Glacial period to the present day (~130,000 years ago to today). In our work we combine the statistical analysis of climate proxy and model data, the modeling of palaeoclimate proxy archive signal formation and climate models (from the very simple to coupled general circulation models), to improve scientific understanding of climate variability changes in a warming world.

Key research questions

  1. How does climate variability depend on the general Earth system state, and global mean temperature?
  2. How is variability on short timescales (in other words: weather) linked to variability on long timescales (up to Glacial-Interglacial timescales)?
  3. How does the Earth system's sensitivity to disturbances (for example volcanic eruptions, or massive ice melt) change under mean-state changes?

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  1. 11/19 - One of this year's EGU Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) Award went to Elisa Ziegler for her M.Sc. thesis work on climate variability using energy balance models, congratulations! The poster can be found here.
  2. 8/19 - The SISAL big picture paper on `Evaluating model outputs using integrated global speleothem records of climate change since the last glacial' is now online in Climate of the Past. Big thanks to the community for the great efforts!
  3. 7/19 - Exiting new paper this week: Using seven methods for climate reconstruction, the PAGES2k consortium - including colleagues from Switzerland, Costa Rica, the US, China, the UK, Australia, Sweden with us in Germany - showed that multidecadal variability is consistent in global temperature reconstructions and simulations over the Common Era, and that there are clear relationships to volcanic forcing. A view-only version to be found here, and more details at the PAGES info page.
  4. 7/19 - Save the date for the workshop ``Beyond Palaeoclimate Ping Pong - Improving estimates of past climate variability by consistent model-data comparison'' from 2nd to 6th of June 2020 at the beautiful IWH in Heidelberg, which is possible due to the Hengstberger prize 2019!
  5. 7/19 - Successful student! Moritz Adam passed the colloquium and exam and presented the results of his Bachelor thesis on complex network approaches for testing coherency of climate variability in a pollen network. Congratulations!
  6. 4/19 - April highlights before Easter: The EGU conference 2019 is over, where we presented the first results of the STACY group work: Elisa Ziegler showed first results from her 100k EBM simulations, and Kira showed results of her work with Carla Roesch and the SISAL chronology team that aims at new age models for 400+ speleothems (Abstract), which was a PICO.
  7. 3/19 - Highlights in March: We hosted Heather Andres from Memorial University of Newfoundland, who gave a talk on deglacial climate variability, and Carla Roesch presented promising results from her M.Sc. project at the DPG spring meeting; and we hosted Martina Stebich from Senckenberg research station Weimar and discussed ongoing work on Glacial climate and ecological variability as recorded by pollen.
  8. 2/19 - Successful student: Benjamin Schmiedel successfully passed the Kolloquium and exam and presented the results of his Bachelor thesis on one-dimensional energy balance models. An example of his work can be found here. Congratulations!
  9. 1/19 - Four highlights in January for the STACY group: Martin Werner from AWI Bremerhaven visited us and gave a seminar talk on water isotopes, Janica Bühler started her PhD on speleothem forward modeling, Nils Weitzel will tackle the pollen-based climate reconstruction challenges and there is a new publication from earlier work: May, M. M. and Rehfeld, K.: ESD Ideas: Photoelectrochemical carbon removal as negative emission technology, Earth Syst. Dynam., 10, 1-7, https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-10-1-2019, 2019.
  10. 12/18 - Chris Brierley from University College London visited the STACY group for three days and gave a talk in the IUP seminar on Climate variability diagnostics for PMIP4/CMIP6. Thanks!
  11. 9/18 - Group start: Thanks to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for funding the Emmy Noether junior research group STACY: State and timescale-dependency of surface climate variability from the last Glacial to present day!

Gruppenfoto Stacy


Dr. Kira Rehfeld
Janica Bühler (MSc)
Beatrice Ellerhoff (MSc)
Carla Roesch (BSc)
Julian Schäfer
Shirin Ermis
Anna Sommani (BSc)
Nadine Theisen
Moritz Kirschner (BSc)
Nils Weitzel (MSc)
Elisa Ziegler (MSc)

Student assistant:

Moritz Adam (BSc 2019)


Benjamin Schmiedel (BSc 2019, intern at Bjerknes Center/Norway)

Project opportunities

Please contact us if you are interested in our work. Please enclose a short CV as well as an overview of your course of studies, detail experience/expectations you have relating to palaeoclimate, data analysis and programming, and why you are interested in joining this group in particular.


Dr. Kira Rehfeld
Universität Heidelberg
Institut für Umweltphysik
Im Neuenheimer Feld 229 (room 402)
69120 Heidelberg

Office: +49 6221 54 6353
kira.rehfeld ( at ) iup.uni-heidelberg.de

Funding through the Emmy Noether programme of the German Research foundation is gratefully acknowledged.
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