Obituary: Konrad Steffen

Konrad Steffen, 1952-2020

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is greatly saddened to learn of the loss of Konrad “Koni” Steffen who passed away aged 68 on 8 August 2020 in an accident in Greenland.

Professor Steffen contributed to the IPCC as a Lead Author on the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and on the landmark Fifth Assessment Report.

Professor Steffen was Director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and a former director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His passion was the polar regions and he devoted his career to research on climate change and the cryosphere in the Arctic and Antarctic. He was also a remarkable science communicator.

Steffen is highly recognized for his long-term scientific monitoring work of the Greenland ice sheet. Since 1990 every spring he went to the Swiss Camp meteorological base station in Greenland, where he worked with his colleagues collecting data on snow, ice and the atmosphere. “The poles of the Earth are of great importance for the climatic balance of our planet. More research and knowledge of how they work is urgently needed,” Steffen wrote on the website of WSL. 

Steffen attended ETH Zurich, from which he received a Diploma in 1977 and a Doctor of Science degree in 1984. He was a professor at the University of Colorado, at EPFL in Lausanne and at ETH in Zurich. He was born on 2 January 1952 in Zurich, Switzerland. A dual US and Swiss citizen, he was married and a father of two. He was a member of the International Glaciological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society. “We will deeply miss Koni, but are committed to continuing his mission towards making a contribution, big or small, to create a difference,” his colleagues from the Swiss Polar Institute said in a statement.

See below excerpt of a video of Konrad Steffen at WMO’s 2019 High Mountain Summit.

The IPCC Secretariat gratefully acknowledges sources providing information used to draft this text, which are available online or provided by third parties. Please notify any inaccuracies to the IPCC Secretariat at