The fact that the scientists leading the project are based in Berlin is only logical. Berlin is considered the cradle of research on the stratosphere, ever since meteorologist Richard Adolph Assmann, of the Aeronautical Observatory in Berlin, discovered this area of the atmosphere in 1902, at the same time as his French colleague Léon-Philippe Teisserenc de Bort. But some 60 years ago, when researchers in Berlin first found that the stratosphere was warming, hardly anyone was interested. After all, that part of the atmosphere accounts for only ten to 15 percent of the total atmospheric mass. It can’t have that big an impact on the global climate, most people probably thought at the time. Today, however, we know that when the chemical composition of the stratosphere experiences great change, that also affects conditions in the next layer down, the troposphere – the part of the Earth’s atmosphere where we live, and where most of our weather phenomena and events occur.
Climate research is now a high-tech science. Satellites long ago took the place of the rubber hot air balloon that Assmann used, over a century ago, to take measurements and collect data in the atmosphere. Today, powerful computers help the scientists to crunch data and make forecasts for the development of the climate. “To get a simulation for a period from 1960 to 2100, we have to run the computers for several months,” says meteorology professor Ulrike Langematz, who heads the SHARP research program.