New professorship endowed by the Carl Zeiss Foundation will focus on environmental modeling of the climate system

Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz will explore the complex processes of the climate system using computer-based Earth system models


The Carl Zeiss Foundation has agreed to provide funds for a new endowed professorship in the field of environmental and climate modeling at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). With the help of so-called Earth system models, the prospective holder of this professorship will investigate atmospheric chemical and microphysical processes within the climate system. The results will provide a scientific basis for political and socio-economic decision-making about environmental and climate-related issues. The Carl Zeiss Foundation, which is the sole shareholder of SCHOTT AG in Mainz and Carl Zeiss AG in Oberkochen, will fund the endowed professorship with a total of EUR 1,195,000 over the next five years. The professorship will be hosted at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at Mainz University.

There is a broad consensus that the current global climate change is predominantly a result of human activity over the last 150 years. A key factor in this context are the emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide. In addition there are long-lived trace gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which do not only contribute to the depletion of stratospheric ozone, but also have greenhouse gas-like effects. These trace gases are still detectable despite the fact that their emissions were banned some 20 years ago.

The new professorship will be considering both anthropogenic and natural sources of trace substances that pollute the atmosphere and other ecosystems such as the oceans and the biosphere. An important focus will be on the human impact on the climate system as well as on the interactions between weather, climate, and air quality, and their role in shaping our environment. A main tool for this line of research will be highly complex computer models that simulate the physical and chemical processes of the Earth system.

Interdisciplinary cooperation in the field of environmental modeling

The endowed professorship will have strong links with various other disciplines. In addition to the atmospheric sciences, chemistry and biology play an important role, which is why the new professorship will profit from interdisciplinary collaboration within JGU. Moreover, the work with Earth system models requires expertise in mathematics and computer sciences. "Environmental modeling is an active and extensive area of research that requires knowledge about a variety of processes from different disciplines," explained Professor Volkmar Wirth of the JGU Institute of Atmospheric Physics. "Our methodology must therefore continually respond to new theoretical findings and observations related to our climate system."

In addition to interdepartmental cooperation within Mainz University, the endowed professorship will also collaborate with non-academic research institutions such as the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam.

This is the second endowed professorship sponsored by the Carl Zeiss Foundation to be set up at JGU. The first was established in late 2013 with funding provided for an experimental professorship in the field of Solid State Science – Oxide Materials. The professorship was awarded to the chemist Professor Angela Möller.