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WSL Research Programme Extremes 2021-2024

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In near future, extremes will be the "new normal". Driven by globalization and climate change, the frequency and severity of extreme events will likely increase over the coming decades. While some impacts can be anticipated, other consequences for the environment and society are still unclear.


The WSL Research Program “Extremes” (2021-2024) fosters inter- and transdisciplinary research to equip Swiss stakeholders with appropriate decision-making tools and coping strategies addressing future extremes.


As a strategic initiative of the WSL, the program allocates a total of 4 Mio. CHF to 5-8 internal projects (anticipating costs of 400’000 - 700’000 CHF per project) placing high emphasis on the co-production of knowledge with stakeholders from various sectors.

You are a stakeholder interested to learn more or to get actively involved? Have a look at the “Stakeholder Factsheet“ and get in touch!

Important dates

23.4.2021Deadline proposal submission
25.6.2021Funding decision
1.9.2021Project start
Fall 2021Start of Synthesis Workshops, FAIR Data Policy & Management Workshop, etc.

Thinking the unthinkable

The Extremes program will focus on events that are rather infrequent and irregular yet likely cause massive impacts on the environment and society. It therefore targets at impacts for which most of us lack experience. While we have a general understanding of the impacts of single drivers, such as for instance the effects of summer drought on runoff, our knowledge on the timing, the specific impacts, and their confounding effects is more limited. Most impact assessments still rely on a linear extrapolation of known drivers on impacts also under extreme conditions. However, this approach does not fully capture the mechanisms behind. In fact, extreme impacts will most likely occur in response to abrupt, compounded or interacting changes in drivers, which often result in non-linear and tipping point behavior. This program aims at thinking the unthinkable in order to prepare for rare and extreme events with significant consequences.


Thinking solutions

The last years have shown several cases of dramatic environmental and societal impacts in response to single or interacting drivers of change. The summer of 2018 for instance has exhibited a severe and lasting drought and heatwave, which has impacted ecosystems and society. Such environmental and societal impacts are specifically challenging for stakeholders, since their management and mitigation decision cannot easily draw from past experience. Reaching tipping points for the first time or when being confronted with non-linear behaviors, management experience is rarely at hand. Science is therefore challenged to support national and regional stakeholders by providing updated knowledge, predictions, projections or early warning systems to better cope with future extreme impacts. In addition, there will be demand for expanded portfolios of tools, best-practices, guidelines, concrete solutions and input for coping strategies to mitigate, manage or respond to future extremes.


Thinking together

The Extremes program is highly inter- and transdisciplinary in nature. Hence it is obvious that the complexity of the topic can only be tackled with in a collective effort together with stakeholders.
Feel free to contact us to share your thoughts and to join the discussion. Let’s think together!