Polar researcher Lemke receives “Bayer Climate Award”

Thu, 03/25/2010 - 2:21am
Leverkusen, March 25, 2010 – The Bayer Science & Education Foundation has chosen Professor Peter Lemke from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven as the winner of the “Bayer Climate Award 2010.” Professor Lemke is being honored for his fundamental and pioneering contributions to establishing the relationship between sea ice and the climate. His research focuses on issues that have been brought to the center of the general public’s attention as a result of the ongoing debate on climate change. Changes in sea ice serve as a barometer for climate change. Werner Wenning, Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer AG, will present Lemke with the award at the international climate conference “Continents under Climate Change” organized by Humboldt University and taking place in Berlin on April 22, 2010.

An independent scientific committee made up of international experts selected the winner from 16 candidates, who had been nominated by the presidents of major European research associations. The Bayer Climate Award has a prize fund of EUR 50,000. It is the first international award initiated by a company for groundbreaking contributions to fundamental research into climate science. Professor Lemke is the second person to be presented with the award after the energy efficiency expert Professor Eberhard Jochem. The award was launched in 2008 as an integral part of the Bayer Climate Program and is presented every two years.

“I am delighted to have won the Bayer Climate Award,” said Lemke. “First, I very much appreciate the recognition of the contributions my colleagues and I have made to climate science. Second, an award of this kind also encourages me to keep going and continue my research to obtain a better understanding of the links between sea ice and the climate.”

Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, member of the Bayer AG Board of Management responsible for Innovation, Technology and Environment and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation, explained the scientific committee’s decision: “Professor Lemke’s research into sea ice has led to the development of key principles for today’s climate models that are used by the scientific community to analyze climate change. The results also create a decision-making basis for climate policies. Lemke is a pioneer and leading international researcher in his specialist field. The material for modeling the climate is extremely complex, but it is also crucial for studying and understanding climate change.”

Lemke began to observe climate-relevant processes in the atmosphere, sea ice and oceans back in the 1970s, focusing particularly on the links between them. Pronounced natural variability and long-term trends in the atmosphere and the ocean are reflected in sea ice because the formation or melting of ice depends primarily on air and water temperatures. However, it is difficult to differentiate between action and reaction, because sea ice also changes the atmosphere and the ocean and thus impacts on the very variables that affect it in the first place. The winner of the Bayer Climate Award 2010 took part in seven polar expeditions on the German research icebreaker “Polarstern” – each lasting several months – and headed up five of them. In addition to the scientific findings he made there, Lemke also drew some very practical conclusions. Due to the poor monitoring conditions in the polar regions, he was strongly committed to lobbying for new measuring technology, particularly remote sensing via satellite, for example through his involvement in the team of scientists responsible for the ESA “CryoSat” satellite.

Professor Lemke is 63 years old and was born in Soltau. He has worked at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research since 2001, where he is currently Head of the Department of Climate Sciences. He is also Professor for Physics of Atmosphere and Ocean at the Institute for Environmental Physics at Bremen University. His academic career has included periods at Kiel University, Princeton University in New Jersey, United States, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Hamburg University (degree in physics, doctorate and postdoctoral qualification in meteorology) and the Free University of Berlin (studies in physics and mathematics).

Lemke has sat on a number of committees. Between 1995 and 2006, for example, he was an active member of the Scientific Committee for the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). This is the highest international committee for climate research and Lemke was the first German to head the committee, a position he held for six years. One result of his work is that the WCRP is now geared towards longer-term climate forecasts based on initial successes with much improved seasonal climate forecasts in the Tropics, which came about, among other things, through its monitoring of the “El Niño” phenomenon. El Niño is characterized by the unusual warming of water in the Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years. These developments regularly lead to storms in Latin America and droughts in both Australia and Indonesia with catastrophic consequences.

At present, Peter Lemke is concentrating on the development of models for analyzing and predicting regional climate change. This is considered very important because it is only by understanding how the climate will develop in particular regions that it is possible to prepare for and adapt to the consequences appropriately. This task is being tackled by the “REKLIM (Regional Climate Change)” climate initiative organized by the Helmholtz network, headed by Lemke and in which eight research centers are collaborating.

Professor Lemke played a key role in preparing the World Climate Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. In 1991 he received the Georgi Award for polar meteorology from the Alfred Wegener Foundation (now the Geo Union). And in 2005 he was appointed Honorary Professor of the China Meteorological Administration.

More information on the Bayer Climate Program is available at:

For information on the Bayer Science & Education Foundation, visit:

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research can be found at:

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