NCCR "Climate Variability, Predictability and Climate Risks" (2001-2013)

NCCR Director: Prof. Heinz Wanner (2001-2007), Prof. Thomas Stocker (2007-2013)

Home institution: University of Bern

Research in the NCCR and major results

The NCCR Climate carried out research in four areas:

  • past climate (variability, trends and extreme events)
  • future climate (processes and forecasting)
  • impacts of climate variability and change
  • risk assessment (risk hedging and socio-economic response)

The climate variability and change over the past 1000 years was documented with unprecedented data from paleoclimate archives and sites.

The heat wave in 2003 was analysed from the atmospheric dynamics point of view, with regard to the probability of occurrence under current climatic conditions, and with regard to the impacts on forest and tree mortality, water availability, biomass and agricultural production. The climate change responses of the most important ecosystems in Switzerland were investigated and management options were elaborated to adapt and to cope with increasing climate variability and more incidents of extreme weather.

Finally, the costs and benefits related to climate change for Switzerland were evaluated and the role of mitigation and adaptation in national climate policies assessed.

  • Funding

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    The NCCR was awarded CHF 26 million for a duration of 12 years of research. The table below shows that this amount represents only 20% of the overall expenditure of the NCCR. The remaining funds are either from third parties or own funds.

    Funding 2001 - 2013

    Funding sources (CHF)






    SNSF funding






    Self-funding by University of Bern






    Self-funding by project participants






    Third-party funding












  • International standing of Swiss research

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    Swiss climate research, particularly in Bern and Zurich, has improved its international profile and visibility significantly. The NCCR Climate has produced high-profile climate and climate impact research. Its researchers have made a wealth of significant scientific contributions. About 800 research articles have appeared in peer-reviewed international journals.

    Some NCCR researchers contributed significantly to the IPCC report and made sure that the knowledge and results of the NCCR were available to decision makers in the national and international context. Researchers of the NCCR participated actively in European programmes with a total of 60 projects. In addition, the NCCR boasts approximately 130 collaborations with research institutes abroad, mainly in Europe and North America.




    Peer-reviewed journal papers


    Articles without peer review


    Articles in anthologies








  • Structural development – Perspectives for the research domain

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    The NCCR Climate has contributed significantly to strengthening and connecting climate research in Switzerland. The University of Bern and ETH Zurich have both established climate research centres at their institutions: the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR) and the Center for Climate Systems Modeling (C2SM).

    These two centres will ensure that climate research will maintain its high international standard in the years to come. In addition, the NCCR has contributed to the recruitment of a new generation of researchers: both at the University of Bern and at the ETH Zurich, promising young researchers have stepped up.

    Unfortunately, the network established by the NCCR will not outlast the duration of the NCCR.

    Structural measures

    Number of created professorships

    2 new full professors3 new assistant professors (tenure track)6 replacements, whereby only four of them participated in the NCCR Climate (i.e. retired professors replaced by professors participating in NCCR)

    Junior group leaders (young associated scientists)

    The NCCR did not install junior group leaders

    Infrastructure / platforms

    The NCCR Climate did not invest in research infrastructures

    NCCR network

    University of Bern: Institute of Geography, Climate and Environmental Physics, Institute of Plant Sciences, Department of Economics, World Trade Institute, Institute of HistoryETH Zurich: Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Institute of Terrestrial EcosystemsWSL and PSI; Agroscope Reckenholz-Tännikon, MétéoSuisse, EPFL, Laboratory REME, Swiss RE and FOEN (Federal Office for the Environment)

  • Knowledge and technology transfer to society and industry

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    The NCCR Climate was very successful in outreach and communication. This included more than 1500 public talks by NCCR Climate researchers as well as tailor-made workshops for journalists and large projects such as exhibitions, not to mention iPhone based educational and outreach media such as the 'Jungfrau Klima Guide'. A new set of Swiss Climate Change Scenarios (CH2011) was produced and made available to researchers, stakeholders and the public.

    The NCCR Climate also collaborated successfully with the public and private sector as well as other stakeholders (FOEN, Swiss RE). Agroscope (ART) maintained close contacts with stakeholder groups from the agricultural sector, with practitioners, multipliers, decision makers and representatives of the cantonal and federal administration. The most important products of the NCCR are a new assessment of crop suitability under changing climate conditions in Switzerland, assessment of future drought risks and irrigation requirements, and research on the optimal design for new tools to protect agriculture against climate risks.

    Finally, new applications and probabilistic methods for weather prediction and climate projections were developed by MeteoSwiss. They are now key elements of the weather forecast and climate risk management.

    It lies in the nature of the research topic that technology transfer was very limited, no start-ups or CTI projects emerged, no patents or licences were obtained.

    Knowledge and technology transfer



    Filed patents




    Start-up companies


    Prototypes, demonstrators


    Processes, products




    After completing their studies, 22% of the doctoral students and postdocs found jobs in the private or public sector. These young researchers play a pivotal role in direct knowledge transfer between the public and the private sector.

  • Promotion of young scientists and the academic careers of women

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    NCCR Climate pushed boundaries both structurally as well as academically in terms of promoting young researchers. It has established a world-class series of international Summer Schools. New forms of training courses and workshops for young researchers (e.g. “Young Researchers Meetings”) have been successfully implemented. Two coordinated MSc Programmes in climate and atmospheric sciences are currently ongoing at the University of Bern and ETH Zurich. The University of Bern runs a “Graduate School of Climate Sciences” which also includes a PhD programme. All in all, 146 PhD students and 115 postdoctoral researchers were trained within the scope of the NCCR. By February 2014, 96 of the PhD students had completed their doctoral thesis.