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Heartfelt condolences for Koni Steffen

On Saturday, August 8, 2020, our director Konrad Steffen was tragically killed in an accident during field work in Greenland.

The WSL directorate and employees are shocked and aghast. In Konrad Steffen, we have not only lost the Director of our institute, but also a committed scientist and above all a unique and generous person and friend. We will all miss him.

We would like to express our deepest sympathy to his family and friends and wish them much strength and confidence for the time to come.

Obituary by Thomas Stocker



Early Days

Though I have often thought of Koni I had not been in contact and it was a shock to hear of his accident.

I am not surprised at his accomplishments and my memories of him and his character are entirely consistent with those I read in this book of condolances. I add my prayer and hope for comfort for his family and all who knew him.

I spent the winter of 1978/79 in Resolute, NWT, Canada, assisting Koni with his PhD field research. I remember hearing of the broken leg incident of the previous year on Cobourg Island. We were to go there as well but when it took a month to find, retreive and restablish the offshore instrument station that had floated away, plans changed. Komi's reslience and resourcefulness served him well, as it evidently has done through the 40 years since. Good memories. Goodbye Koni!

David Fisher



Thanks, Koni!

Thanks, Koni, for your generosity, your visions and leadership, thanks for your hospitality, friendliness and always good humor, thanks for introducing us to your family, for the many hours on your porch in Boulder (or on ours, wherever), for house sitting (and letting) and for all the trips and adventures. And thank you for making a case for the climate, for having the patience to bring all the politicians to the rights spots and taking the right pictures. And thank you Koni, of course, for your great contributions to arctic science and glaciology, for your patience and perseverance with the data sets and your great overview.

I know that the Greenland ice sheet is the right place for you to rest, but 2020 was certainly much too early to go. Farewell, Koni!

Mathias Rotach



This Fascination

This eternal whiteness, this landscape made of water, this purity. Rocks, Wind, Water. And life. The light. And sometimes we.

This fascination is what unites us all, that calls us back to the Arctic. To Greenland. To the Great Ice Sheet.

Koni, you did so much for us all. Supported our endeavors. Explained what we are doing, and why. Provided momentum to Arctic Science.

Thank you.
Martin Lüthi




Lieber Koni

Ich bin dir dankbar für die immer in Erinnerung bleibenden Momente der Begegnung und der Inspiration ...

Daniel Steiger (ehemaliger Mitarbeiter des geographischen Instituts der ETH Zürich)



A tragic loss of a great person and scientist

Dear Family and Friends of Koni
Dear colleagues

Our heartfelt condolences go out to you all. We truly miss the presence of an outstanding person and a great scientist.

I personally had the privilege to know Koni in person. I will never forget our interactions with him, either at our home, when traveling last jointly in Japan in autumn 2019, or when sitting in my office at UZH Irchel campus, which used to be his office when ETH Geography was still located at the said campus.

We will carry on his legacy and memory with pride and responsibility. We will never forget his empathy and dedication.

Thank you Koni for everything you have done for us!

Michael Schaepman and colleagues at the University of Zurich



Koni: role model, mentor, friend

Dear Koni, ever since we sat next to each other typing away on out theses at ETH - you for your PhD, I for my diploma - you have been setting standards for my thinking, for what I dared to dream of, and for my professional path. Rägi and you always understood and supported us in our "transatlantic lives", in good times and hard times. Your house was always open to my family, whether it was at Unionstrasse, on Schönenboden, or at Norton Street. What remains are photographs & memories. And they are forever. Thank you.

Hans Peter (HaPe) Schmid



Konrad's fervor for Arctic Science was amazing

As a former Chair of the US Arctic Research Commission, and someone who had the pleasure of knowing and supporting Konrad's efforts, I extend my condolences to his family and colleagues. He accomplished much in his short years, always spoke credibly, helped the world launch a broad and productive International Polar Year. His voice, humor, fervor, analysis, gravitas will be sorely missed, and long remembered.

Mead Treadwell



Tragic loss

I apologize for the delay of my condolences.

I want to express my closeness to the family and to the whole Institute, for this tragic loss.

My deepest condolences.

Ilaria Buja



kalaallit nunaat ...

Aluu Koni, gute Reise!

Qujanaq Doris



I will miss Koni

My heart sank at the news of Koni's passing. I didn't want to believe it...and was convinced he would emerge some days later from the ice in his normal heroic fashion. The reality is difficult to accept.

While my own expertise and scientific pursuits did not align closely with Koni's, I came to know him as part of his leadership of the Cooperative Institute Directors group while he was at CIRES (I am at a sister institute, CIRA, in Fort Collins). In the mid-2000's I was witness to his affable form of leadership, self deprecating, honest, genuine, a heart of service and good intent, and commanding a respect that only true leaders have. I did not realize how much I learned from him until many years later.

The uncanny thing about Koni was that I would always run into him at international airports, usually in Germany. He would be the one familiar face among a sea of strangers, and not hard to miss given that he toward over most of them! I started to look for Koni during random travels overseas, convinced that I would find him eventually. Sometimes I was right. I will probably still look for him.

The thing about Koni was that despite my incredibly junior status compared to him in our field, you would have never thought about this when speaking with him. He would look you in the eye and we would be on the same level. It was a true joy to interact with him. It was strange, feeling how this man could be anyone's best friend in the blink of an eye.

I can't say much more, it is making me sad. I will miss Koni Steffen, the world is a less interesting place without him, but blessed for him to have walked the ice for a time.

-steve miller (CIRA)



Konrad Steffen: the Human Nunatak

Konrad Steffen was an immense figure in my life, as he was in the lives of so many. I am truly stricken by his passing. Now that Koni is gone, I have suddenly realized that he was something of a human nunatak, an enduring part of the intellectual landscape, standing tall above the flow of Arctic knowledge and action all around him: Steffen Nunatak. The fact that he managed to keep Swiss Camp alive for three decades, in a funding world where grants are measured in three-year increments, is a testament to his vision, determination, and intelligence.

His success might have had something to do with the fact he never seemed to be troubled by jet lag, nor even needing to sleep very much. I remember staying in his Zurich apartment right after he had moved back to Switzerland from Boulder. He worked every night until two AM, reading research papers, writing grants, references, and reviews. By 6:30 he was up and at it again, enjoying a cup of coffee. I have no idea how he did it.

In 2007, when the Extreme Ice Survey was still uncertain, still swirling around in my imagination, Koni emphatically encouraged me to move forward with a time-lapse camera network. “A long time series of images at high temporal resolution would really be worth having,” he said in his professorly Swiss accent. In later years, he became a member of the Extreme Ice Survey and Earth Vision Institute advisory boards. We worked together on public outreach at COP-21 in Paris and many other events.

Koni’s friendship was as steady and bright as Switzerland itself: committed, devoted, organized, and secure. I could always count on him. He was, to put it simply, a great guy. His passing leaves a gigantic void in my life, just as his living filled me with joy and inspiration.

Abraham Lincoln leaves us with words just as pertinent to the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863 as they are to the memory of Konrad Steffen, as we, who he leaves behind, fight the climate change battle of the 21st century:

“It is for us the living…to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

James Balog, September 16, 2020



Rememberance of Koni

I am deeply saddened by the loss of my close friend and colleague Dr. Konrad Steffen in a tragic accident at Swiss Camp on the Greenland ice sheet. Koni was where he loved to be doing the research he loved so much with his amazing dedication to field work in a very risky environment. Koni and I shared many wonderful experiences in the 21 years I worked with him at and around the Swiss Camp from 1994 to 2014. Koni’s main research was in understanding Greenland’s climate and how and why it has been changing, measuring automatically all the meteorological and solar parameters affecting the gains and losses of snow and ice. He established a network of automatic weather stations over the Greenland sheet and painstakingly traveled to service them every year. His research and the data collected have and will continue to contribute much to advancing our scientific knowledge.

One of Koni’s greatest contributions was bringing peoples’ attention around the world to the dramatic global climate warming that is causing increased ice loss and rise of global sea level. Ironically, warming temperatures at the camp, the increased surface melting with meters of ice loss each year, along with the ice flow taking the Camp into an area of surface crevassing all contributed to his accident.

Koni unselfishly invited many visiting scientists to do research at the Camp in addition to the many graduate students he trained and guided in their field work and ice and climate research. Among the visitors were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA), Senator Ed Markey (MA), Congresswoman Hilda Solis (CA), and Congressman Bob Hudson (OH), all while Anderson Cooper of CNN was there filming our work. Other correspondents and journalists included: David Shukman, BBC; Robert Hotz, LA Times; Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker; Andy Revkin, NY Times; Mark Binelli, Rolling Stones; Masaki Watanabe, NHK TV; and Peter Standring, NOVA. More recently Koni and the Swiss Camp were featured with Vice President Al Gore in the opening of his movie “Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”.

Koni will be sorely missed by so many around the world for his personal warmth and scientific legacy that will long live on in our memories and his many contributions.

H. Jay Zwally



A huge loss

This is a huge loss, both professionally and personally. Koni was a scientist with broad skills and interests - a supreme observationalist, an enthusiastic user of remote sensing data, and a dedicated investigator of climate change. His contributions to cryospheric science are numerous and expansive. He was a great storyteller and a tireless worker, which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing over the last three decades. Although he is gone, he remains in my orbit. He will be missed.

Jeff Key



Condolences from a co-worker

I worked with Koni at the University of Colorado in Boulder for 10 years, both while he was a member of the CIRES directorate and later while he was the director of CIRES. He was a kind and committed leader and an impressive scientist. He will be missed greatly. I am so sad. It’s such a loss. Condolences to his lovely family,

Leanne Lestak



Nous avons perdu un collègue d'exception

Le décès brutal de Koni Steffen il y a quelques semaines a été un choc, le genre de choc qui laisse sans voix. Dans le cadre du Conseil International du WSL (advisory board) du WSL, Koni nous avait habitués à un mélange d'ambition forte pour le WSL et de pragmatisme dans la mise en oeuvre des évolutions dans la recherche, avec une très gande ouverture d'esprit et une attention toute particulière aux échanges avec les collègues. Sa disparition brutale est un choc pour la communauté scientifique. Je voudrais ici exprimer toutes mes condoléances aux collègues et amis du WSL, à sa famille et à toute la communauté touchée par cette tragique disparition.

Son souvenir continuera à nous habiter.

Erwin Dreyer



We should all mourn the death of Konrad Steffen

I did not know of Konrad Steffen until hearing from my cousin, who lives in Switzerland and has worked with him. From the video, however, and from what I read about him, I recognise that this is not only a grave loss to his family and friends, but also to the world. What a remarkable, dedicated man, one whose voice will, I hope, outlive him.

Caroline Peacock



Loss of a giant

The tragic loss of Koni Steffen is a blow to us all. He was a towering figure in our field, and his passion for Greenland and science an inspiration. He will be sorely missed.

My deepest condolences to Koni's family, his close friends, and to his field team who were with him on the ice.

Larry Smith
Brown University



Fair Wind, Old Friend

From all the friends of Koni at the International Polar Foundation, we present our condolences to the friends and family of Koni.

It's a struggle to write these words. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that he is really gone, although logic dictates that it is so.
One part holds on to the vain hope that he will somehow reappear, laughing at our disarray, but we know that it cannot be so.

A good man, a decent human being, a kind father, a loyal friend, a great scientist. He was so many things to so many people.
It is impossible to list all the support and good counsel that he gave to us at the Foundation, of which he was, and always will be an Honorary Member.

We have many memories of the great times at Swiss Camp and in Antarctica.

Koni, your enthusiasm for the visions we developed together for future projects was infectious, and the prospect of continuing without you is daunting.

Good bye old friend, it was our privilege to know you, and the World is a colder place without you.

Gigi Johnson-Amin



Über die Schweizer Botschaft in Australien erreichte uns dieses Kondolenzschreiben der Australien Antarctic Division.




I’m so sorry to hear about Dr Steffen's loss and that you’re going through this pain. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers these days.

Abdurrahim AYDIN



Zum Abschied

Lieber Koni

Vorgestern war ich am IACETH. Ich besuchte das M12.2; neben der Türe ist noch immer dein Name zu finden. Ich setzte mich an dein Pult, das ich dir "vererben" durfte und erinnerte mich an unsere letzte Begegnung anfangs Jahr. Du botest mir an, das Pult weiter zu benutzen, wenn du nicht da wärest, wir diskutierten über das Praktikum in Messtechnik, das du vor vielen Jahren absolviert hattest, und sprachen ein wenig über deine zahlreichen Pläne und Projekte. Am Schluss hast du mir geholfen, meinen Rucksack anzuziehen, sagtest noch, dass wir uns unbedingt zu einem Mittagessen treffen sollten und dann bist du zügigen Schrittes zum Lift gegangen. Wir haben uns noch zugewinkt, und ich verspürte Genugtuung, dass ich mit dem Praktikum ein klein bisschen zum Erfolg deiner Messungen beigetragen hatte.

Und dann kam dieser traurige Montagmorgen. Noch vor dem Frühstück musste ich erfahren, dass unser gemeinsames Mittagessen nie mehr stattfinden kann. Was aber bleibt sind Erinnerungen an unsere freundschaftlichen Begegnungen. Koni, wo immer du jetzt bist, lass es dir gut gehen!

Hans Richner



Es war...

... ein sehr kalter Morgen in diesem Mai vor drei Jahren. Bei unserer Ankunft im Swiss Camp. Aber ein unglaublich warmherziger Empfang. Und da war diese Gastfreundschaft: beim morgendlichen Kaffee im Zelt, beim gemeinsamen Fondue, beim spätabendlichen Philosophieren mit Blick in die schier endlosen Weiten des grönländischen Eisschildes. Das alles wird bleiben, Koni, und noch viel mehr. Auf der Rückreise dann hatten wir im Gepäck, was jetzt zum lebendigen Andenken geworden ist (

Wir sind sehr traurig.
Oliver Stebler (ETH Zürich) und Samuel Gyger (Samcam Film GmbH)



A Visionary is No More- A huge loss

Members of Krishana Aravali Foundation Manesar, Haryana INDIA, are deeply sad to hear the news of demise of Professor Kanard. MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE !

Nature will provide strength to his dear and near ones to bear such a great loss.

Krishan Kumar Yadav



With Great Respect

With sadness, I heard of the passing of Koni.

I have met him a few times at conferences in the passing. Everyone knows him however with great respect. He was an example for others, he was a leader.

I am certain his work will continue well beyond his death and there is hope that we all may succeed in changing our society so that we humans have a chance to turn around the ship for a prosperous future together.

With great respect and sadness, I am sending my condolences.
Stefan Vogel



Koni's home


You stood tall. You looked beyond the horizon, searching for the new and unexpected - the large polar explorer you were. But you were never alone. You always looked around you – charming us endlessly and opening our hearts. And if that did not work, you certainly succeeded to convince us by simply having a cup of coffee with us.

Your restless legs brought you far in otherworldly places that only few of us have ever seen or experienced. All of that was possible thanks to the wonderful home you built and one that you invited all of us to share with you. It was built on a vision that only by working together, we can tackle the big challenges that we are facing today. It was a home filled with good stories, friendship and a spirit of “Yes, we can do it!” Even though the home feels empty now, we will continue to build and expand it, until we are where you wanted to bring us. Beyond the horizon.

Thanks for the great many hours we had the opportunity to spend together. Any my sincerest condolences to the family.

Nicolas Gruber
ETH Zürich and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Climate Systems Modeling (C2SM), a joint center between ETH Zürich, MeteoSwiss, Empa, and WSL.

Koni was a member of the Scientific Steering Committee of C2SM for many years, and was a stout supporter of its vision to bring the scientific community together to collaborate on the big challenges in climate sciences.



Un grand scientifique et humaniste nous a quittés

Avec sa famille, ses proches et toutes celles et tous ceux qui oeuvraient avec lui, je partage leur profonde tristesse. Konrad Steffen reste pour nous un guide à suivre dans la recherche sur le climat et les changements globaux. Même disparu, il laisse un héritage de valeurs et de connaissances qui continueront à nous inspirer.

Anne-Christine Clottu Vogel ancienne secrétaire générale de l'Académie suisse des sciences naturelles



Merci Koni !

My deepest condolences to Koni's family and to the WSL colleagues. Koni will be remembered as a great scientist but also as an impacting leader. As representative of the research institutes (inc. WSL) in the ETH Board for many years, I have had the privilege to collaborate intensively with him. Beside the various joined initiatives with have initiated (the latest a few month ago in Davos), I have greatly appreciated his solution-oriented attitude and his humor.

Koni, I/we will be missing you!

Joël Mesot, President ETH Zurich



A great scientist

It is a shock that Koni Steffen so suddenly left us. He was such an active and very knowledgeable scientist, with great ideas, full of inspiration and new plans. The polar scientific community will miss him deeply. I appreciated very much his valuable advice to the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research as a member of the SAB and his many contributtions to the work of SCAR. His inspiration brought the Swiss Ppolar Institute to life. These are only few examples of many other activites he accomplished to further polar reseach. I will remember Koni with gratitude and hope that his legacy will be kept alive.

Karin Lochte



Thanks to Koni from Eawag

As Koni's counterpart at Eawag (the Water Research Institute of the ETH Domain), I worked closely with him to promote cooperation between our two institutes. Our collaboration was intensified when we were assigned to co-lead a task force on Environmental Sustainability Research and Transfer in the ETH Domain. I very much appreciate Koni's contributions and insights and I hope that the further work of this task force will be part of his legacy.

Janet Hering



We miss Koni

It seems to have been yesterday when I had the pleasure to collaborate with colleague Koni during the preparation of the IPCC Special Report on on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC). Koni contributed to this report as an author with his broad knowledge, expertise, and wisdom. What a loss to have him no longer among us! My condolences, also on behalf of other IPCC Bureau members.

Andreas Fischlin, IPCC Vice-chair WGII
Prof. em. Dr., ETH Zurich



Adieu Koni

Liebe Familie, liebe WSL-Gemeinde

Wir müssen uns damit abfinden, dass Koni endgültig in sein geliebtes Grönland zurückgekehrt ist. Beim Abschied steigen Bilder vor uns auf: Koni als charmanter Gastgeber auf dem Campus von Boulder oder Koni als souveräner Referent im Vortragssaal von San Francisco. Sein Charisma ist unvergesslich. Irgendwo in der Ewigkeit werden wir uns wieder treffen......

Heinz Wanner




Greenland has lost a friend

Dear family, friends and colleagues

With the tragic loss of Koni Steffen, Greenland has lost a great friend and an inspiring and loving fellow man. For me he was a pioneer in sharing knowledge and building transatlantic fellowships in particular with the small scientific community of Greenland. In the future, his efforts will continue to benefit the society of Greenland.

Koni was a considerate and kind companion, a committed professional and an excellent scientist, who believed – and worked actively - in the genuine involvement of the local community and in sharing the great achievements of his work with everyone. Size and significance in the right circles was never a key concern to him. Koni would always find time and show real interest and true commitment to personnel and research projects in Asiaq and for that, we will always be grateful.

Our thoughts go to his family in these difficult times. I hope that - in time – you will come to peace with the fact that Koni has found his last resting place in the boundless Greenland inland ice that he loved so dearly. We will do our best to guard and honor his legacy in these parts of the world.

Bo Naamansen, General Manager, Asiaq – Greenland Survey



Kondolenz / Condolence

Liebe Familie und Angehörige, Liebe Mitglieder der WSL-Direktion, Liebe Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter der WSL

Mit grosser Bestürzung haben wir vom tragischen Unfall von Koni Steffen auf einer Expedition in seinem geliebten Grönland erfahren. Sein Tod hat auch uns vom Stab ETH-Rat sehr getroffen und berührt. Wir haben Koni sehr gemocht. Er war ein herzlicher, humorvoller und besonderer Mensch. Wir haben uns immer sehr gefreut, wenn wir uns mit ihm austauschen konnten und das Privileg hatten, von seinen Abenteuern in Grönland oder anderen Orten auf diesem Planeten zu hören Wir empfinden eine sehr grosse Sympathie und Zuneigung für ihn und werden ihn vermissen.

Auf allen Kontinenten war die Bestürzung über seinen Tod sehr gross. Er hat mit seiner Forschung viel zum Verständnis über den Klimawandel beigetragen. Er wird daher auch mit seiner Forschung, die sich einem wichtigen Thema der Menschheit widmete, in Erinnerung bleiben. Die weltweiten Würdigungen seiner Forschung, seiner Persönlichkeit und seinem Wirken haben dies gezeigt. Viele Kolleginnen und Kollegen und Freunde von Koni haben ihre Trauer über den Verlust dieses einmaligen Menschen zum Ausdruck gebracht.

Wir wünschen Ihnen bzw. Euch viel Kraft für die nächsten Wochen und Monate. Wir alle werden Koni als charmanten, lebensfrohen, spannenden und differenzierten Menschen in Erinnerung behalten und drücken unseren Respekt gegenüber seinen Erfolgen in der Forschung und seinem unermüdlichen Engagement für eine bessere Umwelt aus. Seinen Angehörigen und Freunden sprechen wir unser tiefstes Beileid aus.

Die Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter des Stabs des ETH-Rats
Dear family members and friends, dear WSL directorate, dear WSL staff

We were devastated to hear of the accident that befell Koni Steffen during an expedition in his beloved Greenland. As for everyone else who knew him, his death came as a shock for all of us on the staff of the ETH Board. We were very fond of Koni. His warm personality and his great sense of humour made him a very special person. It was always a pleasure to be in touch with him and to have the privilege of hearing about his adventures in Greenland or other places around the planet. Koni holds a special place in our hearts, and we’ll miss him.

The news of his death has been deeply felt on all continents. His research contributed a great deal to what we know about climate change. So it’s also through this research – which addressed an issue of crucial importance to mankind – that we will always remember him. We can see that from the worldwide accolades he received not only for his research but for his personality and his achievements. Numerous colleagues and friends of Koni have expressed their grief at the loss of this unique human being.

We wish you much strength for the coming weeks and months. Koni will be greatly missed for his charm and his 'joie de vivre' and for all his fascinating and stimulating contributions. We would like to express our deepest respect for the successes he achieved in his research and for his tireless efforts on behalf of the environment. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family and friends.

The staff members of the ETH Board




I was saddened to hear the news of Dr. Steffen's death. I didn't know him personally, but I know that his work has been pivotal in helping concentrate the public's focus on the challenge of our lifetime. As such, it is an inspiration to me and other environmental scientists, working to try to save humanity and the earth's ecosystems from further destruction. May his memory be a blessing to you and all that loved him.

Prof. Dr. Rachael Garrett, D-USYS and D-GESS



Mein letzter Direktor

Mit bestürzung habe ich vom Unfalltod meines letzten Direktors erfahren. Ich werde ihn als Direktor und vorallem als Mensch stets in guter Erinnerung behalten und wünsche seinen Angehörigen Gottes Trost und Segen.

Padruot Nogler (ehemaliger WSL-Mitarbeiter)



Immemse loss for the geoscience community

We are deeply moved to hear about this immense loss of a colleague and partner in glaciology, polar and environmental research. The geoscience community in Switzerland and around the world will miss him. Our sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at WSL.

Jan Seibert, on behalf of the Department of Geography, UZH, and the Swiss Hydrological Commission (CHy)



A great scientist and a greater man

For sure Koni was a great scientists and the world is poorer without him. But when I think of Koni it is the person I think about. I first met him as a CIRES Fellow in 05/06 when he was the Director for CIRES, and our first konversation was about coffee. Everyone knows Americans can't do proper coffee and to survive Koni had bought an espresso machine and started an espresso club; for a moderate fee you could become a member and get access to decent coffee at work. Ever since that year in Boulder, whenever I met Koni at various functions or conferences it was like meeting an old friend, no matter if it was often or long in between. Koni was a warmhearted person always with a great smile and a good story to tell, always positive and glad; he made you feel like you made a difference! To me, this means more than all his scientific and organizational contributions and I will miss seeing his face sticking up in crowd and his smile as he saw you across the room. The world is a poorer place without him; science needs excellence of course but progress also needs good people. Koni was good people...

Michael Tjernström



Ein grossartiger Wissenschaftler und Mensch

Wir haben Koni Steffen bei diversen Vorträgen erleben dürfen. Seine Begeisterung für unseren Planeten, das ewige Eis, Grönland und das Klima allgemein haben uns alle unheimlich inspiriert. Mit seiner Erfahrung, seinem Wissen und seiner wunderbaren Kommunikation hat er uns tief beeindruckt und motiviert uns für diesen wunderbaren Planeten zu engagieren. Ruhe in Frieden.

Edwin Moser, Co-Gründer films for future




Als Direktor der baden-württembergischen Forstlichen Versuchs- und Forschungsanstalt habe ich Koni Steffen mehrere Male in Birmensdorf und Freiburg erlebt. Er ist uns als sachkundiger, im Umgang sehr angenehmer und kompetenter Wissenschaftler begegnet, der die WSL mit Kompetenz, Umsicht und Empathie geleitet hat. Nach unserer Wahrnehmung von außen war er ganz offensichtlich auch innerhalb der WSL sehr beliebt, und das obwohl er auch wichtige, teilweise herausfordernde Entscheidungen für die WSL zu treffen hatte. Er hat den fachlichen und wissenschaftlichen Austausch in unserem Netzwerk nfz-forestnet immer unterstützt und die Kooperation unserer Institutionen gefördert. Er wird uns fehlen!

Mit tiefem Mitgefühl kondoliere ich der WSL und allen in ihr Arbeitenden
Konstantin v. Teuffel



Friend of the Arctic

The Arctic was your passion! I guess you went the right way and you will stay in our hearts!

Christoph Wüthrich



Abschied von einer grossen Persönlichkeit

Liebe Mitglieder der WSL-Direktion
Liebe Mitarbeitende der WSL

Die Nachricht vom tragischen Unfalltod von Koni Steffen hat uns tief betroffen gemacht. Wir können es nicht fassen, und doch ist es leider Wirklichkeit. Wir entbieten Ihnen und seiner Familie unsere tiefste Anteilnahme und trauern mit Ihnen.

Wir verlieren mit Koni Steffen einen äusserst liebenswerten und grossherzigen Menschen, einen Pionier in der Erforschung des Klimawandels und einen hochmotivierten, engagierten WSL-Direktor. Gerne erinnern wir uns an die vielen interessanten und bereichernden Gespräche mit ihm und seine Begeisterung, seinen Optimismus und seine Ideen für neue Forschungsprojekte zur Förderung einer nachhaltigeren und sichereren Umwelt. Wir sind dankbar für die gemeinsame Zeit mit Koni Steffen und werden ihn als Freund, Kollegen und verantwortungsvollen Forscher in bester Erinnerung behalten und ihm ein ehrendes Andenken bewahren.

Liebe Mitglieder der WSL-Direktion, liebe Mitarbeitende der WSL, wir können nur erahnen, wie gross Ihr Schmerz und Ihre Trauer ist. Wir wünschen Ihnen viel Kraft und trotz allem Zuversicht in den schweren Momenten des Abschiednehmens und Loslassens.

Mit stillem Gruss

Im Namen des Bundesamtes für Umwelt BAFU

Christine Hofmann
Stellvertretende Direktorin



Unser Beileid / Our Condolences

We will miss him.

Martha and Peter Cerny



A great loss of an inspired scientist

I heard the shocking news of the sudden and premature death of Koni.

I’m really astonished. It is a great loss, the loss of a visionary and inspired scientist, of a fine diplomat, a skilled manager, a mentor, a Friend.

This death is a sign stronger than others. Whoever met Koni’s look will never forget his inspiring mission to work for a better Planet. He left an incredible legacy to all of us who knew and appreciated him.

We won't let him down and we will continue the crusade for a better Planet, as he always taught to us. We’ll miss him a lot.

My sincere condolences and those of all my colleagues of the Italian Institute of Polar Sciences, to his family and colleagues.

Carlo Barbante, Professor
Director of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the
National Research Council of Italy



An inspiring legacy that shines a light on our changing mountains and polar regions

I had the pleasure to meet and briefly work with Koni as part of our contributions as lead authors to the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere, and more recently in my role as co-Chair of the WMO High Mountains Summit held in 2019, at which Koni delivered a key presentation on the state of the cryosphere in a changing climate. It was clear just how much passion and dedication there was in his work to see and realise better outcomes for the ice-covered regions of the world, and the people and ecosystems that depend on them.

His inspiring legacy continues to shine a light on our changing mountains and polar regions.

Our heartfelt condolences from all of us at the Mountain Research Initiative coordination office in Bern.

Carolina Adler
The Mountain Research Initiative (MRI)



Er wird uns allen in Erinnerung bleiben

Ich hatte die grosse Ehre und das Privileg, Herrn Steffen im Juni 2019 auf der Schweizer Botschaft in Rom kennenzulernen, als wir gemeinsam mit dem Schweizerischen Polarinstitut und den italienischen Partnern eine Veranstaltung zum Thema Forschung an den Polen durchführten. Er hielt eine klare und ausdrucksstarke Rede, in der er die schwerwiegenden Auswirkungen des Klimawandels auf Gletscher und Permafrost hervorhob. Wir alle waren von seiner ausgeprägten Persönlichkeit und Professionalität beeindruckt. Mit "Koni" Steffen verlieren wir einen aussergewöhnlichen Forscher, einen internationalen Botschafter der Wissenschaft, einen visionären und grosszügigen Direktor des WSL und, für viele, einen guten Freund. Mein Beileid geht an die Familie, an die Angehörigen, die internationale Forschungsgemeinde und an alle Personen, die ihm nahe standen.

Rita Adam, Schweizer Botschafterin in Italien



Erschüttert und doch hoffnungsvoll

Lieber Christoph, Liebe Mitglieder der Direktion WSL, Liebe Mitarbeitenden der WSL

Wir sind sehr bestürzt über die traurige Nachricht vom Unfalltod von WSL-Direktor Konrad Steffen. Wir möchten Dir, Deinen Kolleginnen und Kollegen der Direktion WSL sowie allen Mitgliedern der WSL unsere Anteilnahme und unser Beileid aussprechen.

Wir haben Konrad Steffen im LAINAT immer als vermittelnden, humorvollen und warmherzigen Mitmenschen erleben dürfen, der die Anliegen des LAINAT aufbauend unterstützt und weiterentwickelt hat. Wir werden viele schöne Erinnerungen an Koni in unseren Herzen tragen.

Für die kommenden Wochen und die weitere Zukunft wünschen wir Dir und den Mitgliedern der Direktion WSL viel Kraft und Weitblick. Unsere Gedanken sind bei Euch, allen Kolleginnen und Kollegen der WSL und bei Konis Familie.

Im Namen aller Mitglieder des Lenkungsausschusses Intervention Naturgefahren LAINAT

Peter Binder, Vorsitzender Direktorenkonferenz LAINAT und Christophe Lienert, Geschäftsführer LAINAT

Mit stillem Gruss



Larger than Life

I met Koni when I served as Switzerland‘s Arctic Ambassador, in 2014. Koni, scientist, diplomat and guardian of the Arctic, was instrumental in helping Switzerland, the „vertical Arctic Country“, to join the Arctic Council as an observer nation.

We had already become friends when I visited the Swiss Camp years later. The cluster of permanent red bow tents will continue to inch northward, with the melting of the Greenland icesheet, as a testimony to him and a reminder to us.

I mourn his departure and my thoughts are with his family, colleagues and friends.

Stefan Flückiger
Deputy Secretary of State
Department of Finance



'Create the difference'

After knowing and admiring Koni for many years, I was honored to work with Koni and many others on the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere. Like Koni did so many times before, we assembled the data and the facts to tell the story of how our planet is changing that his Greenland ice sheets are melting to increase sea level rise for our Pacific Islands.

With each passing year, and the retelling of the story with new data, the new facts, with each new IPCC report, with each new paper, the science, the data, the facts speak louder and louder to say "CREATE the DIFFERENCE'. Start now. Tomorrow will be too late, until it is too late.

Thank you Koni Steffen, Stephen Schnieder, Piers Seller, and Wally Broecker for being our climate change prophets.

We must honor your legacies by working together to create the change, the difference we need for your children, for our children and for all the great great grandchildren of our blue planet.

Elisabeth Ann Holland



Planet Earth lost its most outstanding protector

The tragic death of Konrad Steffen at the place of his passion has deeply shaken me. The ETH Domain is thus losing not only an outstanding scientist and tireless fighter for the preservation of the foundations of life on this planet, but above all a lovable colleague. I and the whole Earth will miss Koni very much. I extend my sincere condolences to the bereaved and wish them much strength in these difficult times.

Dieter Künzli, Head of Finance & Human Resources ETH Board



My deepest condolences to you Anico and Simon, Bianca and Leo, and to you Koni's colleagues. The hole Koni has left in your hearts and lives is clearly indescribable. I knew Koni best when I was about 12 or 13 years old and on my father's (Fritz Müller) fieldtrips in the Alps. I particularly remember him cheerfully hiking with a cast and crutches! What an incredible big heart he had. I remember him looking out for my mom on that walk despite his own obvious difficulties. My father had the most profound respect and caring for Koni and would have loved to know of his exceptional contributions to Science and the planet. Surely my father already knew that Koni's passion and commitment would lead to great things. I feel honored to have known such a beautiful soul.

Hanna Muller



Kind and generous

I had the opportunity to work with Koni during the preparation of the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. He was so kind, unassuming, and generous sharing his knowledge. I especially admire him for his passion for doing field work and for being so committed to doing what he loved to create the difference. I feel privileged to have met him. My deepest sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues in this time of deep sorrow.

Maria Paz Chidichimo



Koni, my former school friend

Koni went to school with me in Oberengstringen. He used to help me in Maths. Two years ago we met again, sharing our biography. And the passion for his work was extraordinary!

May his Family be blessed in this Time of Great sorrow.
Monika Montanari-Peter, Hedingen



Ein Botschafter für die Schweiz

Mit grosser Bestürzung haben wir vom tragischen Unfalltod von Prof. Dr. Konrad Steffen erfahren. Prof. Steffen war eine weltweit anerkannte Kapazität im Bereich der Klimaforschung und insbesondere auch ein Pionier der schweizerischen Polarforschung. Er hat die Forschung im hochalpinen Raum mit derjenigen an den beiden Erdpolen verbunden. Nicht zuletzt seinem unermüdlichen Einsatz und seiner Vision ist es zu verdanken, dass die Schweiz 2017 den Status als Beobachterin im Arktischen Rat erlangen konnte. Von 2009 - 2012 war er zudem schweizerischer Honorarkonsul in Denver, Colorado. Viele Kolleginnen und Kollegen im EDA hatten das Privileg, ihn persönlich zu kennen. Im Namen von uns allen möchte ich seiner Familie und allen Personen, die ihm nahe standen, unser Beileid aussprechen. Er war ein herausragender Botschafter der Schweiz.

Stefan Estermann
Eidgenössisches Departement für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten EDA, Politische Direktion
Chef Abteilung Sektorielle Aussenpolitiken
Vertreter der Schweiz beim Arktischen Rat



Tief betroffen

Lieber Christoph, liebe Mitglieder der Direktion der WSL

Wir sind tief betroffen vom Tod von Koni Steffen. Mit ihm verlieren wir einen herausragenden Kollegen, Mitstreiter und Freund. Koni hat die Zusammenarbeit mit MeteoSchweiz stets gefördert und konstruktive Kontakte unterhalten. Sowohl im LAINAT, im NCCS als auch bei GCOS-CH war er ein tragendes Mitglied mit viel Enthusiasmus und Engagement. Wir bedauern sehr, dass er nicht mehr unter uns ist und sind sehr traurig.

Wir drücken dem Führungsgremium der WSL und den Nächsten von Koni unser tiefes Beileid aus.

Tief betroffen,
Die Geschäftsleitung von MeteoSchweiz
Peter Binder, Bertrand Calpini, Christof Appenzeller, Manuel Keller, Sara Szabo



Continue to listen

‘I can only remind you to think of this place – our world. Think of its beauty, its significance, and then make your contribution, big or small, to create the difference.’ We need to continue to listen to Koni’s words, his science, and his vision. Koni dedicated his life to science to understand and inform on climate change with unique passion, as a dedicated leader and with an outstanding charismatic personality. I feel honored and privileged for the opportunity to working with him, to exchange, to learn, to smile, to negotiate, to enrich the view and visions, to enlarge science knowledge, to inspire, to challenge, to further increase curiosity, to grow, and to understand. My deep thoughts and condolences to his family, his friends and his colleagues.

Karina von Schuckmann



A tragic loss but an example to stay

I am not an ice scientist and only met Koni in 2017 when work started on the IPCC Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. I very much liked his gentlemanly approach to science. It was only later that I discovered he was such a committed leader of cryospheric science. Koni will remain an example for the upcoming generation of scientists.
My condolences to his wife, children, friends and colleagues.

Jean-Pierre Gattuso



Koni was my hero for snow and ice studies

I mourn the death of Professor Konrad Steffen and express my sincere condolences. I remember that Koni encouraged me to say "I see this study for the first time" when I presented my research on the bidirectional reflectance of snow at the International Radiation Symposium 2000 in St. Petersburg. Since then, I have had many opportunities to see him. I pay my respects to Koni for his vitality and passion for visiting snow and ice fields every year even at an age like him. He was my hero for snow and ice studies.

Teruo Aoki



The way you showed

It is a very big sadness. Through your life, you showed important message to us, colleagues, young scientist and family. Finally you start travelling into the history of earth, climate, snow and ice. Suddenly, we lost you, however, we are sure we will keep your memory and follow the way you showed.
Thank you, Koni.

Hiroyuki Enomoto  



Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. Hegg,
sehr geehrte Kolleginnen und Kollegen der Direktion der WSL,

der unerwartete Tod von Herrn Prof. Dr. Konrad Steffen hat uns an der Bayerischen Landesanstalt für Wald und Forstwirtschaft tief erschüttert. Wir möchten Ihnen unser aufrichtiges Mitgefühl und tiefe Anteilnahme übermitteln.

Unsere beiden Forschungseinrichtungen stehen im langjährigen, engen Kontakt in zahlreichen Forschungsgebieten und wir wissen die enge wissenschaftliche Verbundenheit, die nicht zuletzt auch durch den Direktor der WSL geprägt wurde, sehr zu schätzen.

Unsere Gedanken sind bei den Kolleginnen und Kollegen der WSL, die um ihren Chef und Kollegen trauern, sowie seiner Familie.
Für die Leitung der LWF:

Dr. Peter Pröbstle | Olaf Schmidt | Kurt Amereller