Climate System Research Group | Climate System Research Group – Institut für Geographie
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Climate System Research Group

Our research targets physical processes that control the interactions and linkages between different “bricks” of the climate system. In doing so, a central theme is the relation between the cryosphere (snow and ice) in high mountains and the large-scale mechanisms in the climate. To decipher this relation various “players” are of interest: coupled atmosphere-ocean modes acting over thousands of kilometers; associated flows in the atmosphere which are strongly modified by high mountains over land; and the meteorological conditions in the mountains which provide the local environment for glacier variability; More knowledge of the causal link between these components holds great potential to better understand the functioning of our climate system – through different space-time dimensions and from the surface up to higher air layers (the mid troposphere). This vitally extends the basis for improving climate projections for the future.




Prof. Dr. Thomas Mölg / group leader, project leader /

Dr. Nicolas J. Cullen / Humboldt Scholar, project leader / Univ. Otago

Dr. Emily Collier / PostDoc, project staff

Dr. Carolyne Pickler / PostDoc, project staff

Dr. Tobias Sauter / PostDoc, project leader /

Dr. Jenny Turton / PostDoc, project staff

Marta Caballero, Phys. Eng. / PhD student, DAAD Fellow (co-supervision with WG Braun)

Anja Sendelbeck, MSc / PhD student, univ. assistant

Thomas Scherer, Alexander Thiel (MSc students)


Main themes

– High-altitude cryosphere as indicator of large-scale climate dynamics

– Tropical climate variability (monsoon, El Niño) and extratropical impacts

– Orographic precipitation and mesoscale circulations


Main methods

– Meteorological measurements in high mountains

– Numerical modeling and high-performance computing

– Four-dimensional statistical analyses


Recent funded projects (selection)

Revealing the footprint of ENSO in the mass balance of mountain glaciers”   INFO(1)  INFO(2)

Detection and Attribution of climate change for the mountain cryosphere: Advancing to the process-level”   INFO

The impact of the dynamic and thermodynamic flow conditions on the spatio-temporal distribution of precipitation in southern Patagonia”   INFO

Climatic mass balance of the 79N Glacier” – part of the joint project GROCE, Greenland Ocean Ice Sheet Interaction   INFO


Recent peer-reviewed publications (selection)

Sauter T., Galos S. (2016): Effects of local advection on the spatial sensible heat flux variation on a mountain glacier. The Cryosphere, 10, 2887-2905.

Prinz R., Nicholson L.I., Gurgiser W., Mölg T., Kaser G. (2016): Climatic controls and climate proxy potential of Lewis Glacier, Mt Kenya. The Cryosphere, 10, 133-148.

Li R., Luo T., Mölg T., Zhao J., Li X., Cui X., Du M., Tang Y. (2016): Leaf unfolding of Tibetan alpine meadows captures the arrival of monsoon rainfall. Scientific Reports, 6, 20985.

Collier, E., Maussion F., Nicholson L.I., Mölg T., Immerzeel W.W., Bush A.B.G. (2015): Impact of debris cover on glacier ablation and atmosphere–glacier feedbacks in the Karakoram. The Cryosphere, 9, 1617-1632.

Mölg T. (2015): Exploring the concept of maximum entropy production for the local atmosphere-glacier system. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 7, 412-422.

Sauter T., Obleitner F. (2015): Assessing the uncertainty of glacier mass-balance simulations in the European Arctic based on variance decomposition. Geoscientific Model Development, 8, 3911-3928.

Farinotti D., Longuevergne L., Moholdt G., Duethmann D., Mölg T., Bolch T., Vorogushyn S., Güntner A. (2015): Strong glacier mass loss in the Tien Shan over the past 50 years. Nature Geoscience, 8, 716-722.

Hofer M., Marzeion B., Mölg T. (2015): A priori selection and data-based skill assessment of reanalysis data as predictors for daily air temperature on a glaciated, tropical mountain range. Geoscientific Model Development, 8, 579-593.

Cullen N. J., Mölg T., Conway J., Steffen K. (2014): Assessing the role of sublimation in the dry snow zone of the Greenland ice sheet in a warming world. Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres, 119, 6563–6577.

Mölg T., Maussion F., Scherer D. (2014): Mid-latitude westerlies as a driver of glacier variability in monsoonal High Asia. Nature Climate Change, 4, 68-73.

Sauter T., Möller M., Finkelnburg R., Grabiec M., Scherer D., Schneider C. (2013): Snowdrift modelling for the Vestfonna ice cap, north-eastern Svalbard. The Cryosphere, 7, 1287-1301.