Research Activities

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MENU OF RESEARCH ACTIVITIES: Click on one of the options below

This section discusses succinctly some of the research foci that Martin Beniston has addressed during his career. Several topics are discussed below, that can be explored by clicking one of the options below:

 

 

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Numerical simulations of climate

Martin Beniston has a wide-reaching experience in the numerical simulation of climate processes at the regional scale, investigating both atmospheric processes and future climate trends in a "greenhouse world".

In the 1980s, he developed a finite-difference atmospheric model to study turbulent and cloud processes when working at the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg (MPIMet), and subsequently applied the model to air pollution studies at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). From the end of the 1990s established a long-standing collaboration with the numerical climate modeling team at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM). The Canadian Regional Climate Model (C-RCM) was then used for numerous climate studies. In addition, results from a suite of regional climate models used in particular in the EU PRUDENCE and ENSEMBLES Projects were applied to a range of climate-relevant issues focusing on Europe in general and Switzerland in particular, including:

  • Wind-storm simulations
  • Heat-wave analyses
  • Heavy precipitation
  • Drought
  • Projections of weather extremes in a warming climate

These activities have been widely funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, Swiss public and private sectors, and European Projects under EU Framework Programs 5, 6, 7 and Horizon-2020.

All these studies (and those described in the following paragraphs) have been published in the international literature and are available in the publications list pages.

 

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 A set of partial-differential equations used to solve some elements of atmospheric physics. Background picture: a measurement station on the Arctic Ocean sea ice (April, 2009).

 

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Stormy skies over the Lake of Geneva

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The Morterarsch Glacier in the Upper Engadine region of Eastern Switzerland, one of the rapidly dwindling elements of the Alpine cryosphere over the past 150 years.

Analyses of climate data and climate impacts studies

The wealth of observational data at the European level in general, and for Switzerland in particular, has enabled many studies to be undertaken on the behavior of climate since the turn of the 20th Century. Among other issues, these studies have aimed at assessing the long-term trends of temperature and precipitation, as well as the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as wind-storms, heatwaves, heavy precipitation, and droughts.

Combining both observational evidence of a changing climate and climate model results for the coming decades of the 21st Century, Martin Beniston and his team have undertaken numerous climate-impacts studies, in particular those pertaining to:

  • Response of river flows to a changing climate (see more details in the "ACQWA" project section)
  • Changing behavior of snow and ice in mountain regions
  • Physical and biological changes in lakes confronted with a warming climate
  • Impacts of changing hydrological resources for the electricity sector
  • Potential increases in damage to infrastructure with a possible enhancement of the severity of mid-latitude wind-storms

 

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Research highlights: the EU "ACQWA" Project

Future shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns, and changes in the behaviour of snow and ice in many mountain regions will change the quantity, seasonality, and possibly also the quality of water originating in mountains and uplands. As a result, changing water availability will affect both upland and populated lowland areas. Economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism or hydropower may enter into rivalries if water is no longer available in sufficient quantities or at the right time of the year. The challenge is thus to estimate as accurately as possible future changes in order to prepare the way for appropriate adaptation strategies and improved water governance.

The ACQWA Project, initiated and coordinated by Martin Beniston (and administered by Prof. Markus Stoffel) was funded after a competitive bid in 2007 by EU Framework Program 7 (6.5 million Euros for 5 years). The Project involved over 100 scientists in 37 partner institutions in 10 countries in Europe, South America, and Central Asia.

The project’s objectives were to assess the vulnerability of water resources to climatic change in mountain regions such as the European Alps, the Central Chilean Andes, and the mountains of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan), where declining snow and ice are likely to strongly affect hydrological regimes in a warmer climate. Model results were then used to quantify the environmental, economic and social impacts of changing water resources in order to assess how robust current water governance strategies are and what adaptations may be needed in order to alleviate the most negative impacts of climate change on water resources and water use.

A short summary of the project is available by clicking here, while a more complete report and additional details are available on the project’s website.

 

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 Alpine lake in the vicinity of the Great St Bernard Pass, Switzerland, in the catchment of the Rhone River, one of the test sites of the ACQWA Project.

 

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 Aerial view of the Aconcagua, at close to 7,000 m elevation, dominating the headwaters of the Aconcagua Catchment in Chile, one of the test sites of the ACQWA Project.

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The futuristic looks of the Swiss vessel "Tûranor Planet Solar" (in 2013) and its array of over 500 m2 of solar panels that feed electricity into the batteries located in both catamaran floaters

 

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"Tûranor Planet Solar" towards the end of its mission as it passes beneath Tower Bridge in London, early September 2013

 

Click here to view a 5-minute video of the "PlanetSolar DeepWater" expedition in 2013!

Research highlights: the "PlanetSolar DeepWater" Project

The Swiss “MS Tûranor Planet Solar” is the largest solar-powered vessel ever built and is the first solar-powered object that accomplished the first round-the-world tour in 2012 powered only by solar energy. Its exclusive features, in particular a pollution-free environment with no exhaust fumes as on a classical ship, and the possibility to accurately position the vessel, makes this an interesting platform for in situ observations at the ocean-atmosphere interface.

The “PlanetSolar DeepWater” Project that took place in 2013 was led by Martin Beniston for the scientific part and by Dr. Didier Raboud (a member of the Rectorate of the University of Geneva and Head of the University's media services) for the media and public-relations part.

The principal objective of the project was to use the pollution-free features “Planet Solar” to carry out a unique scientific expedition along the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, and to contribute to raising awareness about the reality and complexity of climatic change.

The mission in the North Atlantic began in early June, 2013, in Miami, Florida, and tracked the Gulf Stream for over 5,000 km via New York, Boston, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Saint John’s (Newfoundland), London, and finally Paris in September 2013.

The ocean current that transports heat from the Tropics to the Arctic across the Atlantic Ocean is one of the most significant regulators of climate. Satellite imagery and Earth-based observations have reasonably well documented the features of the Gulf Stream, such as the vortices (or eddies) that break away from the main stream of the ocean current, but the interlinked physical, chemical, and biological processes taking place in the main current and the eddies is still a matter of considerable scientific interest. A unique element of the 2013 expedition was the use of a pioneering laser-based instrument to measure the quantity and typology of aerosols released by the ocean into the atmosphere. According to the temperature and salinity characteristics of the ocean water, the main current, and the ocean eddies, it was possible to document accurately the behavior of marine-based aerosols over a trajectory of more than 5,000 km.

Since aerosols play an important role in the modulation of climate, understanding their behavior under the influence of particular water masses can ultimately lead to an improvement in the performance of climate models, by incorporating the influence of aerosols on local and regional climates.

A major publication emerged from this expedition:

Kasparian, J., Hassler, C., Ibelings, B., Berti, N., Bigorre, S., Djambazova, V., Gascon-Diez, E., Guiliani, G., Houlman, R., Kiselev, D., Philipp de Laborie, P., Anh-Dao Le, Magouroux, T., Neri, T., Palomino, D., Pfänder, S., Ray, N., Sousa, G., Staedler, D., Tettamanti, F., Wolf, J.-P., and Beniston, M., 2017: Assessing the dynamics of organic aerosols over the North Atlantic Ocean. Scientific Reports, DOI:10.1038/srep45476

 

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Conferences: Organization and Attendance

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Prague, venue of the 2007 EU-ENSEMBLES Project General Assembly Conference

 

Workshop Organization

In addition to his research agenda, Martin Beniston has organized numerous scientific meetings, mostly internationally-oriented, in particular:

  • 1987: The International Conference on Energy and Air Pollution at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 1992: The International Conference on Mountain Environments in Changing Climates, Davos, Switzerland
  • 1995-2007: The International Wengen Workshops on Global Change Research, co-organized with leading institutions worldwide, focusing on topics such as regional climate modeling, biomass burning, desertification, climate impacts on hydrology, human health, migrations, and many more themes, The meetings took place generally each Fall in Wengen in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland
  • 2008-2013: In the context of the EU "ACQWA" Project, coordinated by Martin Beniston, scientific meetings were held in the context of the annual project General Assembly meetings, in Wengen, Switzerland (2008), Courmayeur, Italy (2009), Dundee, Scotland (2010), Zaragoza, Spain (2011), Riederalp, Switzerland (2012) and Trieste, Italy (2012), and Geneva (2013)
  • 2015-2019: Meetings similar in spirit to the Wengen Workshops mentioned above were co-organized in Riederalp, Switzerland, in the late Winter/early Spring timeframe. These include: Extreme Climate Events (2015), Mountain Cryospheres: From Process Understanding to Impacts and Adaptation (2016), Risks and Hazards in Natural and Urban Environments (2017), Exposure, Vulnerability and Resilience of Human Societies to Climate (2018), and Climate Extremes: New Ideas for Quantifying Changes and Improving Resilience (2019)

 

Workshop Attendance

Martin Beniston has spoken at over 600 meetings in many venues around the World. These include international and national conference, and talks designed for the public as well as economic and decision makers.

Click on this link for a full list of events in which he participated during his career.

 

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Futuristic architecture in Singapore, venue of the 2016 International Water Week and Conference

 

 

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