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Dr Helge Goessling

Helge initially studied biophysics at the Humboldt University in Berlin. In the course of his studies, he became increasingly fascinated with the climate and with climate modelling in particular. After completing his first degree and while looking for a Ph.D. position, he opted for the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, in order to focus on climate research in greater depth. Before specialising in sea ice and switching to the AWI in 2012, he analysed global water cycles in an effort to identify precipitation patterns and track down the origin of rain. The insights gained into global processes back then are an enormous help to him today in terms of creating sea-ice simulations that reflect the reality as accurately as possible. Climate models can only yield robust forecasts that reach far into the future when the most important of these global processes are integrated as precisely as possible.

Since 2017, Helge has led the Junior Group “Seamless Sea Ice Prediction” (www.awi.de/en/science/junior-groups/ssip.html), which brings together young researchers at the AWI. For meereisportal.de he writes articles on various aspects of the sea-ice forecast. In connection with one of several side projects, Helge recently played a key role in a study on a spectacular geo-engineering strategy, the goal of which was to use technological means to produce longer-lived sea ice. The simulation-based study showed that, despite the theoretical possibility of delaying sea-ice loss by decades, the projected influence on global temperatures would be negligible (https://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2019/12/05/can-arctic-ice-management-combat-climate-change).

What were your most important findings?

One of the most important findings in recent years was that forecasts for year-on-year variability in the sea-ice distribution are subject to certain fundamental limitations, and that making reliable forecasts extending beyond a few months is no mean feat. This is because the atmosphere is chaotic and especially winds are virtually impossible to predict, which essentially leaves the sea ice at the mercy of what happens in the atmosphere. Which is not to say, however, that longer-term changes produced by climate change can’t be realistically simulated.

How does the steady supply of new data affect sea-ice drift forecasts?

There are any number of operational forecasting centres that supply predictions on the sea-ice drift, which we combine in a so-called consensus forecast. Of course, we keep especially close tabs on the floe from the MOSAiC expedition and its drift, since one of our goals is to help ensure that satellite images can be suitably ordered in advance. In addition, thanks to the readings taken on site, we can draw on an extraordinarily detailed dataset in order to identify shortcomings in conventional forecasting systems and which factors still need to be reflected more accurately.

In your view, how do meereisportal.de and its publicly accessible data collections and articles contribute to knowledge transfer?

What’s unique about the platform is the diversity of the information, and how it’s prepared. Observational data and satellite images are invaluable for the scientific community. I also consider making this data accessible, and maximising scientific findings in the process, to be our duty. At meereisportal.de these findings are also processed into a more accessible form, making them suitable for the public.

What I hope to accomplish with my work is…

to help arrive at a better grasp of the climate system, to help establish a scientifically sound basis for climate-related societal decision-making, and to keep pursuing an exciting career with fun and passion.

Picture of Dr Helge Goessling

Dr Helge Goessling