A new Emmy Noether junior research group has taken up its work at the Institute for Environmental Physics of Heidelberg University to study changes in climate variability since the last ice age. Their research focuses on how such natural climate fluctuations change over various timescales if the Earth grows colder or warmer. The team under the direction of Dr Kira Rehfeld is using methods from statistics as well as mathematical physics. Over the next five years, the physicist will receive funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) totalling approximately 1.5 million euros.
Dr Rehfeld and her team are studying and quantifying changes in climate variability in the past and investigating how reliably current climate models reflect these fluctuations in cold and warm periods. "We want to find out how weather, climate and the major swings between cold and warm cycles are related. The temporal spectrum of variability we look at ranges from annual averages to cold/warm cycle transitions on a scale of 10,000 years," explains Dr Rehfeld. In its studies, the team is using data from so-called paleoclimate archives such as ice cores, speleothems and pollen from lake sediments. The researchers then compare them with simulations of complex climate models. "We are concentrating on the time period from the inception of the last ice age up to the present," states Dr Rehfeld, who heads the research group "State and timescale dependency of climate variability from the last Glacial to present day" (STACY). The group’s goal is to gain a better understanding of climate fluctuations especially in a warming world.
Kira Rehfeld (b. 1982) studied physics and medical physics with a focus on radiation therapy at Ruperto Carola, in Grenoble (France), and Boston (USA). She completed her doctorate at Humboldt University of Berlin and then spent three years pursuing postdoctoral research at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. As a German Research Foundation fellow, Dr Rehfeld was a member of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge from 2016 to 2018.