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Kirsten Zickfeld’s research focuses on the effects of human activities on climate on decadal to millennial timescales. The goal is to better understand the response of the climate system to disturbances and the interactions between the different climate system components (the atmosphere, ocean, land surface, biosphere and cryosphere) in order to improve predictions for the future. To achieve this objective, she uses climate models of different complexity, from simple conceptual models to complex Earth system models running on high-performance computers. Currently, her research focuses on the following areas:
- Carbon Budgets: She is interested in exploring the theoretical foundation of the proportional relationship between global warming and total carbon dioxide emissions, which is at the heart of the carbon budget concept, and to quantify carbon budgets associated with climate targets (e.g. the 2 degree target).
- Reversibility of Human-Induced Climate Change: She is interested in exploring whether it is possible, in principle, to restore the climate to a previous state if human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases are eliminated or carbon dioxide is artificially removed from the atmosphere.
- Climate Feedbacks: There are a range of climate feedbacks which have the potential to amplify human-induced climate change, potentially leading to critical thresholds or “tipping points” being crossed. She is interested in understanding and quantifying these feedbacks.