Köppen Prize 2015 goes to Dr. Jakob ZscheischlerDr. Jakob Zscheischler is this year’s laureate of the Wladimir Peter Köppen Award. The mathematician is honored by CliSAP for his outstanding dissertation which was conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, and submitted at ETH Zurich last year. The jury evaluated the work as methodically and thematically very inventive and at the same time trend-setting.
In his doctoral thesis Mr. Zscheischler examines the impact of extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves, or heavy rains to the carbon balance in land ecosystems. In general, the vegetation takes up more carbon (C) than it releases and thus functions as a carbon sink. It can therefore buffer rising CO2 emissions. If extreme climate events become more frequent as a result of climate change, this could affect the buffering function. For example, an increase in heat waves enhances the risk of forest fires. While large areas of vegetation are destroyed, additional carbon is released into the atmosphere. A carbon sink would then become a carbon source.
Jakob Zscheischler first developed a method to identify regional climate extremes using Earth observation data. He subsequently compared the results with the global carbon budgets and found a noticeable connection. The young scientist was able to show that the annual differences in the global carbon cycle can be explained by just a few local extreme events. These negative carbon budgets occur especially in savannas and grasslands and can mostly be attributed to drought and fires.
The award ceremony will be at the New Year's reception of CliSAP on January 15, 2016. "I am particularly pleased that scientifically a yet unexplored terrain has been discovered," says Prof. Dr. Anita Engels, spokeswoman for the Center of Excellence. "We want to encourage young researchers to pursue their own creative ideas in climate science." The Köppen Award is endowed with 5,000 Euro and allocated to young doctoral students with an excellent dissertation in the field of climate research.