The interview with the head of the International Baltic Earth Secretariat – Dr. Marcus Reckermann – is now also available in English.
How long has the Baltic Earth programme existed?
Baltic Earth originates from a former programme called BALTEX, which existed for 20 years (1993 – 2013). It was a research programme for the whole Baltic Sea drainage basin involving many scientists and institutions. Main research areas were hydrology, meteorology and oceanography. This programme existed in two phases. The second phase was characterized by an extended research scope and lasted until 2013. Additional topics included regional climate change, climate variability and biogeochemistry as well as education and aspects regarding outreach to stakeholders and the general public. Instead of adding a third BALTEX phase in 2013, the decision to create something new resulted in the foundation of Baltic Earth. Baltic Earth mainly extends the scope of BALTEX Phase II, but also adds some new aspects, like the role of humans in the regional Earth system.
What are the main topics covered by the scientific work in the context of Baltic Earth?
In BALTEX, the research programme was organized according to “research objectives”. What we have now in Baltic Earth is a defined preliminary set of “grand challenges”. Those are main research topics, which the Baltic Earth steering group has defined as important research areas at this point in time. Current “grand challenges” are:
• Salinity dynamics – As we know, the Baltic Sea is a brackish water body and its salinity dynamics are related to the overall climatic, meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic conditions. Thus, a question is whether the Baltic Sea will become more fresh or salty in the future, with consequences for the organisms living in the Baltic Sea. The salinity of the Baltic Sea is closely related to the water and energy cycle in the drainage basin.
• Land- Sea biogeochemical feedbacks – This includes all the processes as nutrient turnover and runoff that are taking place in the drainage basin and their impacts on the biogeochemistry of the Baltic Sea.
• Natural hazards and extreme events – Examples are floods or storms occurring in the Baltic Sea drainage basin.
• Sea level dynamics – Sea level in the confined Baltic Sea basin with only several narrow outlets to the ocean has a lot more variations than global sea level. Also, the land uplift in the northern part of the basin counteracts the global sea level rise. Understanding how sea level dynamics will develop in future is a challenging task. Regional particularities, which determine the local sea level, are also present in many other regions of the world.
• Regional variability of water and energy exchanges – a continuation of how BALTEX originated. There are still many open questions regarding the fluxes of water and energy in the Baltic Sea area that are relevant for the regional climate.
All these aspects have to be specifically examined by particular research projects. Main tools which scientists use are numerical modelling and analysis of observations.