We want to investigate which changes there were during the last decades, concerning these storms. Were there changes at all? Are the changes within the natural statistical fluctuations or do we need to take climate change into account for a proper description? Are the developments consistent with the scenarios of plausible future developments we get from our models?
What I can already say: For our regions here in Europe, there are no systematical changes (although everybody thinks there are). By the way, this is consistent with our models which envisage only weak changes in regional storm activity until the end of this century—despite the ongoing climate change. Our goal is to extend this type of analysis to other regions of the world.
Something which we also work on is the effect of storms on the marine environment. Which other factors have an influence on the marine environment? The storm surges in Hamburg, for example, have gotten higher and higher during the last 50 years. But this is not because there would be more or heavier storms but it is mostly because of the deepening of the river Elbe up to Hamburg and because of the improved coastal protections. For a wave, like the tide or a storm surge, it is much easier to travel up the river today. So we are also taking these alternative explanations into account—anthropogenic factors that might increase the risk. On the other hand, such modifications of the river's geometry could also be used to decrease the risk. If we can redesign the environment of the river to make it a bit harder for waves to travel up the river, then this could reduce the impact of storm surges.
The second topic, I am interested in, has to do with this ''postnormal science'', we already talked about. In my field, we are working in a strongly politicized environment. This means, I need to reflect on the cultural, social and political boundary conditions that are present.
Already our grandmothers said that storms are getting heavier and heavier. So it seems this is a pattern of thought that is somehow inside our heads. And it also influences us as researchers in one or the other way. This is something, I find extremely interesting. I think, you cannot do research on the climate without caring about these social and cultural aspects. Someone like me, who also talks to politicians and the media, has to reflect on his working conditions and how he can maintain his scientific independence.
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