North German Climate Office

Background and Goals

As climate change can take different forms in different regions, farmers, coastal engineers, urban planners and political and business decision makers need first-hand information so that they can equip themselves to deal with climate change in their region. The Helmholtz community has therefore decided to establish a network of climate offices across Germany. The following four regional climate offices gather and communicate research results on regional climate change. They also identify information needs and integrate these into research programmes:

1. Northern German climate office - focuses on the research areas of storms, storm floods and waves, and energy and water cycles in Northern Germany;

2. Climate office for polar regions and sea level rises - covers climate change issues in polar regions, with particular focus on sea levels;

3. Southern German climate office - provides expertise in regional climate modelling and extreme events such as heavy precipitation and flooding;

4. Central German climate office - provides information on the impact of climate change in terms of the environment, land use and society, as well as proposing adaptation strategies.

The Northern German climate office was established at the Institute for Coastal Research due to the clear deficiencies in communication between climate researchers and the users of research findings. The latter are generally decision makers in public authorities, politics and business. This primarily includes coastal protection, agriculture and water management, energy and industry, shipping and ports, fisheries, tourism, conservation and health.


Climate change is already in progress but what should Northern Germany expect in the future? This question is dealt with by the "Northern German climate office", thus creating a necessary bridge between climate research and practice. The aim is a broad representation of possible climate change in Northern Germany, as simulated by the currently available climate models.

Content time

Research area/region

  • Germany
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Bremen
  • Hamburg
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
  • Lower Saxony
  • Schleswig-Holstein
Natural spatial classification
  • coasts: North Sea-/Baltic Sea coasts
  • North-East German lowland
  • North-West German lowland

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

The climate calculations used come predominantly from the German climate research centre's data archive, databases from EU projects on regional climate change (e.g. PRUDENCE) and the archive on coastal climate at the GKSS Institute for Coastal Research. Information about past and possible future climate change in Northern Germany can be taken from these climate calculations.

The different climate projections used are created using the RCAO (Rossby Centre, Sweden), REMO, CLM and WETTREG regional climate models. This is done using the two IPCC emission scenarios (SRES) A2 and B2, which are based on the following assumptions: The A2 scenario is a pessimistic scenario and anticipates a tripling of the pre-industrial level of atmospheric CO2 concentration by the end of the 21st Century. It describes a very heterogeneous world, with rapid economic growth but a lack of rapid innovations in the area of clean technology. The B2 scenario is slightly more optimistic, predicting only a doubling of CO2 concentrations. It also describes a heterogeneous world, but on in which the focus is on local solutions for sustainable action in terms of the economy and the environment.

The regional climate models contain the required information about large-scale atmospheric circulation from the two global climate models from the Hadley Centre Model (HadAM3H) and the Hamburg Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (ECHAM4/OPYC3).

The "Northern German climate atlas" was developed for this purposes to provide information about the current state of research on possible future climate change in Northern Germany. In this atlas, users can retrieve climate variables (temperature, precipitation, humidity etc.), periods (near future: 2011-2040, mid-21st Century: 2041-2070 and late 21st Century: 2071-2100) and information on changes as an annual average or in individual seasons, and represent this information in the form of maps. The climate atlas can be accessed online.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Sea level rise und storm surges
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
  • Storm
  • Dry periods
Further Parameters 

snow coverage

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

The following climate effects are studied for Northern Germany:

  • Storms: Winter storms could become 3 to 7% stronger, with effects for the offshore sector, power generation and insurance;
  • Sea level rises and storm floods: High storm floods could become more frequent, reach 60 to 80 cm higher and last longer, with effects for dyke building / coastal protection, urban planning and disaster protection;
  • Dry periods and heat waves: In summer, 25 to 40% less rain could fall, heat records could be around 2.5 to 5°C warmer, winters could be 2 to 4°C warmer, with effects for agriculture, disaster protection and water supply;
  • Heavy precipitation and flooding: The number of rainy days in summer could decrease, 20 to 45% more precipitation could fall in winter, more heavy precipitation and more precipitation could occur, with effects for disaster protection, urban planning and insurance.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Supporting decision making processes for adaptation to climate change with information and communication.

The flood of messages in the public climate debate makes it hard to distinguish genuine scientific knowledge from public discussion. The discussion often takes on a life of its own and unscientific data analyses and inadequate knowledge and evaluation can lead to incorrect assessments. In decision making processes, this can lead to huge bad investments when adaptations to climate change have to be financed. The Northern German climate office is aiming to provide a non-specialist professional audience confronted with climate change with understandable information about climate change in Northern Germany. These include climate calculation methods and assumptions in the context of climate change, as well as information about what is meant by "uncertainty" in climate research. This is intended to make it easier for users to interpret and ultimately apply research results.

On the other hand, the climate office plays a role in bringing scientific issues from climate-sensitive areas into the academic debate. The first issue is to establish what knowledge and what type of information the user requires in order to act and plan for the future. This knowledge enables climate research to respond more effectively to needs.

Time horizon
  • 2011–2040 (near future)
  • 2021–2050 (near future)
  • 2036–2065
  • 2051–2080 (far future)
  • 2071–2100 (far future)


Funding / Financing 

Helmholtz Association

Project management 

Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht (HZG)


KlimaCampus Hamburg


Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht
Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung GmbH
Institut für Küstenforschung
Max-Planck-Straße 1
21502 Geesthacht

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  coastal and marine protection  energy sector  financial services industry  fishery  human health  industry and commerce  spatial, regional and urban land use planning  tourism industry  transport, transport infrastructure  water regime, water management