The climate and the environment

The purpose of DTU Space’s climate and environmental research is to chart both natural and human forces affecting the Earth’s climate and thus living conditions for mankind.

Some of the Institute’s scientists monitor the melting of the Greenland ice cap from satellites and aircraft to find out how quickly the ice is melting so we can prepare for the expected sea level rise.

Another focus area is the study of the atmosphere. A group of researchers at the Institute are developing an observatory for the International Space Station, which will study how, for example, extreme thunderstorms, water vapour, aerosols and clouds interact and influence the atmosphere’s chemical composition. The researchers will also study how natural and man-made events on the ground – such as hurricanes, dust storms, forest fires and volcanic eruptions – influence the atmosphere.

The Institute is also investigating the connection between variations in solar activity and changes in the global average temperature. Solar activity directly influences the amount of cosmic radiation released through the Sun’s magnetic field and entering the Earth’s atmosphere, and the researchers are examining whether there is a connection between the flux of cosmic rays and the formation of clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Facts about the Earth's climate

The Earth’s climate is not just a question of global average temperature. Wind patterns, precipitation, sea levels and moisture content all form part of the climate and play a vital role for the conditions for human life.

The climate is created through the interactions of many factors, for example radiation from the Sun, the ability of the ground surface to reflect sunlight and the ability of the atmosphere to retain heat. A small change in one of these factors could start a chain reaction, resulting in major changes in the global climate.

Mutual feedback mechanisms are very complex, and large amounts of research and computing power are required to map and model them.

The objective is to be able to predict how the climate will develop as a consequence of natural and man-made influences.