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Leading Swiss climate researcher dies in Greenland accident

Konrad Steffen, a prominent Swiss researcher on climate change, has died in an accident in Greenland.

Steffen next to Swiss President Leuthard
Steffen (right) had a prominent visitor when President Doris Leuthard came to Greenland in 2017 to learn about the impact of climate change. Keystone/Peter Frey

The 68-year-old was killed in an accident at a weather station, known as Swiss camp, at the weekend, officials said on Monday. He fell into a crevasse full of water when the snow gave way beneath him, some 100 metres from the camp.

As of Tuesday, Steffen’s body had not yet been recovered.  

Steffen, a dual Swiss/American who headed the Federal Office for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research since 2012, has conducted research into climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic for more than 40 years.



Iceman keeps his cool despite global warming

This content was published on swissinfo caught up with him at the Swiss Camp on Greenland’s west coast, where he measures variations in the island’s ice cap with his research team from Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). “Koni”, as Steffen is known, is a true lover of nature, especially the cold and the snow. Since 1975,…

Read more: Iceman keeps his cool despite global warming

“With Koni Steffen’s death, we have lost a uniquely kind and committed colleague. Everyone in the ETH Domain is greatly saddened by this loss,” Michael Hengartner, the chairman of the board of the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich said in a statementExternal link.

Steffen had a successful career as a scientist after his doctorate in 1984 and taught at the University of Boulder, Colorado.

From 2012 he was also professor for climate and cryosphere research at the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and in Lausanne.

His work took him to Greenland every year, and he was the scientific director of the Swiss Polar Institute. 

In this video from 2018, Steffen talks about his work and the Swiss contribution to polar research:

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR