Stefan Kröpelin

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Stefan Kröpelin, 2019

Stefan Kröpelin (* 1952 in Munich) is a German geologist and climatologist who works in the Africa Research Unit of the Institute of Prehistory and Early History at the University of Cologne.


Kröpelin came from a liberal family, his father was a senior editor at Bayerischer Rundfunk, his mother was a lawyer in Munich. Because of political incitement he had to leave school in 1968 and then did his Abitur in Berlin. In 1970 he took his first long trip to Afghanistan and to the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas in an old VW van.

In the 1970s, Kröpelin first studied computer science at the TU Berlin. After his intermediate diploma, he undertook further travels. In the process, he discovered his interest in the geosciences. From 1979 he studied geography and geology at the TU Berlin and the Université d’Aix-Marseille. In 1985 he moved to the Department of Earth Sciences at the Free University of Berlin. Here he received his doctorate in 1990 with a dissertation on the Lower Wadi Howar in northwestern Sudan. Since 1995 Kröpelin has been working at the University of Cologne. There, from 1995 to 2008, he headed the Sudan and Chad subprojects of the DFG Collaborative Research Centre 389 on “Cultural and Landscape Change in Arid Africa”, and from 2009 to 2017 the subproject “High-Resolution Climate Archives of the Sahara” in Collaborative Research Centre 806 “Our Way to Europe”.

Kröpelin is married and has three children.

Scientific achievements

As an Africa researcher, Kröpelin has conducted more than sixty expeditions to the Sahara. He is currently investigating, as part of the Collaborative Research Centre “Our Way to Europe”, the route and climatic conditions under which Homo sapiens came to Europe from the sub-Sahara more than 100,000 years ago. In particular, he has explored the oases of the Ounianga Lakes, the gorges of the Ennedi Massif and the Tibesti Mountains, the largest mountain range in the Sahara, with mountains up to 3,500 metres high and also the largest crater landscape on earth.

He was instrumental in the inscription of two regions of the Eastern Sahara on the UNESCO World Heritage List, namely the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ouinanga Lakes in Northeast Chad (inscribed in 2012) and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ennedi Massif in Northeast Chad (inscribed in 2016). He is currently overseeing a third initiative: the Tibesti Mountains in northwest Chad. He is responsible for the establishment of two national parks: Wadi Howar National Park in northwestern Sudan and Gilf Kebir National Park in southwestern Egypt.

In awarding the DFG Communicator Prize, reference was made to the fact that his research findings have been featured in more than 30 television programmes (broadcast by ARD, ZDF, Arte, WDR, SWR, among others) and 20 radio contributions, some of which were also broadcast by non-German broadcasters such as Radio New Zealand or the US National Public Radio. Furthermore, he organized several exhibitions, which were shown in more than 30 cities in Germany and abroad (including the DFG’s international travelling exhibition on Sahara research “The Water of the Desert” (1995-2002), which was presented in 17 countries). He has also produced ten films of his own.

About 50 of his non-scientific articles have appeared in magazines such as “Spiegel”, “Focus”, “New York Times”, “Wall Street Journal” and “Pravda”. Another 30 magazine articles about his research expeditions have been published in “GEO” as well as in the “GEO Lexikon”.

Statements on climate change

Kröpelin is a signatory to the Clintel-initiated declaration There is no climate emergency, which challenges the scientific consensus that current global warming is mainly man-made and calls therise in CO2 concentrations beneficial.[1]
In a replica to the 2018 Süddeutsche Zeitung article Coal, Coal, Coal, Kröpelin called an overwhelming or even 97 percent scientific consensus of climate research “untenable”. Scientists would risk their careers or funding unless they followed “the scientific (or political) mainstream”.[2] In this context, Kröpelin spoke at a conference of the European Institute for Climate and Energy, which is part of the organized climate change denial movement, of a “conformity of most of the media and also of most of science”.[3]


  • 2017: National Order “Officier du Tchad[4]
  • 2017: Communicator Prize of the DFG and the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany.[5] The associated Communicator Prize hologram was designed by Michael Bleyenberg and shows a pattern of sedimentary layers in the background, the foreground consists of an ensemble of people hunting and animals inspired by the prehistoric drawings.
  • 2014: Honorary member of the Long Now Foundation
  • 2012: National Order “Chevalier du Tchad
  • 2010: Zerzura Club Explorer Medal
  • 2010: Honorary member of the Sudanese Geologists’ Union
  • 1998: Honorary Member of the Man & Biosphere Programme of UNESCO in Sudan.[6]

Selected publications

  • Riemer H., Kröpelin S. & Zboray A. (2017): Climate, styles and archaeology: an integral approach towards an absolute chronology of the rock art in the Libyan Desert (Eastern Sahara). Antiquity, 9, pp. 7-23.
  • Kröpelin S. et al. (2016): Lake Yoa (Northern Chad): A Seasonal Footprint of 10,500 Years of Climate Change in the Sahara, AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco.
  • Mallaye B. & Kröpelin S. (2016): Ennedi Massif, Chad. A cultural and natural gem. World Heritage, 82, pp. 30-37.
  • Kröpelin S., Dinies M., Sylvestre F. & Hoelzmann P. (2016): Crater palaeolakes in the Tibesti mountains (Central Sahara, North Chad) – New insights into past Saharan climates. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 18.
  • Kröpelin S. (2009): Holocene environmental reconstruction and cultural history of the Sahara: perspectives from the Sudanese desert. In: Deserts – natural and cultural change in space and time, W. D. Blümel (ed.), Nova Acta Leopoldina, NF 108, pp. 165-191.
  • Kröpelin S., Verschuren D., Lézine A.-M., Eggermont H., Cocquyt C., Francus P., Cazet J.-P., Fagot M., Rumes B., Russell J. M., Darius F., Conley D. J., Schuster M., Suchodoletz H. v., Engstrom D. R. (2008): Climate-Driven Ecosystem Succession in the Sahara: The Past 6000 Years. Science, 320, pp. 765-768.
  • Kröpelin S. (2007): Holocene climate change and settlement history of the eastern Sahara. Geographische Rundschau 4/2007, p. 22-29.
  • Kuper R., Kröpelin S. (2006): Climate-Controlled Holocene Occupation in the Sahara: Motor of Africa’s Evolution. Science, 313, p. 803-807.
  • Pachur H.-J., Kröpelin S. (1987): Wadi Howar: Paleoclimatic Evidence from an Extinct River System in the Southeastern Sahara. Science, 237, pp. 298-300.


  • Rüdiger Heimlich (2017): “Please just: desert explorers”. forschung. Das Magazin der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft, 2017/2, pp. 4-9.

Web links

Individual references

  1. There is no climate emergency.Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  2. Sahara researcher Stefan Kröpelin: “A sense of proportion and self-scepticism suit scientists better than dogmatism, doomsday scenarios and too much closeness to politics or even the Pope”.January 24, 2019, accessed July 7, 2020.
  3. Stefan Kröpelin – The Green Past of the Sahara on 24.11.2018.EIKE – European Climate and Energy Institute, January 27, 2019, accessed July 7, 2020 (quote beginning at 46:20).
  4. Awards and honorary positions.In: CologneUniversity Magazine. University of Cologne, 15 June 2018, retrieved 3 July 2018.
  5. Communicator Award 2017 to Stefan Kröpelin
  6. Frank Allgöwer (2018). Laudatio for the award of the Communicator Prize 2017 to Stefan Kröpelin