Dear reader,

Introduction IMAU newsletter June 2024

Introduction IMAU newsletter June 2024

The final lectures are approaching, students are preparing for their thesis presentations and colleagues are sharing their upcoming summer plans. Yes, it’s June, marking the end of the academic year—a perfect time to relax and reflect on our accomplishments.

My experience this year has been a thrilling roller coaster ride. It began with our exciting climate model simulation, which revealed an abrupt collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Circulation (AMOC). We submitted the first version of our manuscript early August 2023. After two rounds of revisions, the paper was accepted and scheduled for publication on Friday evening, February 9, 2024.

Journalists contacted me the week before the publication date, and I was interviewed more than 15 times. When the embargo lifted at 8 pm, our publication immediately began trending on various news platforms and social media. Emails poured in, a stark contrast to the usual automated email notification that your paper is now available online. We were overwhelmed by the international reactions within the first few hours.

The following week, my inbox overflowed with more media requests. To name a few: CNN, a 10-year-old YouTuber, Swedish Radio, and the radio show ‘Spijkers met Koppen’. Due to different time zones, I scheduled interviews from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. In the past months, I participated in more than 70 interviews and live performances.

Apart from all the media attention, I had to prepare for my lectures, my Veni proposal, continue research on AMOC tipping, and prepare for the European Geophysical Union General Assembly. Now, four months later, looking back at my agenda, I’m somewhat puzzled at how I managed all of this.

I also received questions from the public, many of whom were concerned about the climate impacts of a potential AMOC collapse. It was very interesting to engage with and inform the public about our study. This public engagement sparked a new research topic: how temperature extremes change under an AMOC collapse. I’m currently exploring this, and the first results indicate that a typical Dutch winter could see temperatures drop to -20°C under an AMOC collapse. In rare events (1-in-30-year events), temperature extremes could drop to -40°C, which is unprecedented.

All of this has been a unique experience, and I’m aware that such occurrences are rare. The media and public attention indicate that our research at IMAU is valuable to society, and I hope, together with you, to continue making significant contributions in the upcoming years.

René van Westen

IMAU newsletter June 2024