Planning the future with climate models

The TU initiative "Climate Informed Engineering" brings together climate research and engineering sciences.

Prof Nima Shokri shows a satellite image from Google Maps on his laptop. Marked in the image is a disdainful piece of wasteland in Hamburg's Moorburg district, directly opposite an industrial estate. "A special laboratory is being built here, our Living Lab," explains the Head of the Institute of Geo-Hydroinformatics. "We will equip this plot with a weather station and lots of sensors, for example to find out how soil quality changes under different climatic conditions." The Living Lab is part of a new initiative at TU Hamburg: "Climate Informed Engineering" familiarises engineers with the fundamentals of climate research. This should enable them to better adapt their designs to climate change - customised for individual regions.

The story begins in the summer of 2020, when Shokri came to Hamburg from the UK to set up a new institute as a professor - the Institute of Geo-Hydroinformatics, based at the TU's Dean of Civil Engineering. At the institute, Shokri, who holds a doctorate in engineering, deals with important questions about the future: to what extent will climate change affect groundwater and how will our soil health and safety change under different climatic conditions? "One of the experts who contacted me first when I arrived in Hamburg was Bjorn Stevens, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology," recalls Shokri. "He simply sent me an email to welcome me."
Climate models: predictions for 50 years

This email marked the start of mutual visits. "I quickly realised how excellent Hamburg is in climate research, especially in the development of climate models," says the Iranian-born scientist. "The idea of combining this excellence with TU Hamburg's outstanding engineering expertise, for example in sensor technology and data analysis, was an obvious one." Others were soon inspired by the idea, including TU Vice President Irina Smirnova and Kaveh Madani, Director of the Institute for Water, Environment and Health at the United Nations University in Hamilton, Canada.

In November 2022, the group launched their initiative and called it "Climate Informed Engineering". The background: "Climate models are getting better and better," explains Nima Shokri. "They can now predict the climate conditions that will prevail in a region in the future down to the square kilometre." This opens up new perspectives for the engineering sciences: If they were to take into account the predictions of climate models for a specific region, solutions could be developed that would be optimally adapted to the consequences of climate change and could therefore mitigate them.
Further information

More about the "Climate Informed Engineering" initiative

Read the entire article in the current issue of spektrum (in German)