Scientific Programme

The Earth system, comprising the sun, atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and solid Earth, determines the conditions experienced by the biosphere. The behaviour and emissions of the biosphere, in turn, feed back into the Earth system, influencing its chemical and physical processes. Earth System Science explores the various processes and transformations that have produced the planet on which we live. Monitoring and observation are key elements within Earth System Science, and are concerned with the large-scale regional and global measurement and interpretation of the behaviour of key parameters and species. It is internationally recognised that Earth System Sciences require structures that transcend the boundaries between disciplines, facilitating modern multidisciplinary research without losing the rigour of approach or technique of the classical scientific disciplines.

Mathematical analysis and computational modelling are powerful complementary tools to investigate processes within the Earth system. The latter has firmly established itself beside mathematical analysis and experimental research as a third core method of scientific investigation. These theoretically-based approaches allow scientists to test hypotheses concerning natural systems that are impossible or extremely costly to manipulate or observe. Simulation of such systems, e.g. the complex Earth system or specific compartments of it, generates new understanding of feedbacks and reaction chains, or of a system’s response to distorted/changed boundary conditions. The possible future behaviour of natural and technical systems can be predicted from simulation models.
To meet its objectives, research within the new Research School will focus on global and regional scale measurements of constituents and parameters, laboratory study of key parameters and processes, and modelling and interpretation of change. The focus is the investigation of key processes in the Earth system and its subsystems: the atmosphere, ocean, land surface, cryosphere and the key boundary regions within and between them. This objective will be achieved by improving understanding of the Earth system and the predictive capability of current community models of the system. In this context, planned key activities are

  • the exploitation and interpretation of measurements from ground-based, ship, airborne and satellite-borne experiments,
  • the development of innovative model concepts for components of the Earth system,
  • the identification of key regions and Earth system compartments that are most vulnerable to global change (atmosphere-biosphere-ocean),
  • the investigation of climate archives for understanding the signal formation process of proxy climate data.

The ESSRES aims at the integration of research at the interface of Biology, Physics, Geophysics, Mathematics and Informatics. It is therefore multi- and interdisciplinary in every aspect. The involved scientists are (geo-) physicists, mathematicians, geologists and biologists by training, but have a strong history in a multidisciplinary practical approach to Earth System Sciences. The students will be recruited from all natural science disciplines. The training, curriculum, and PhD research subjects will be located at the interfaces between the participating disciplines. This will be guaranteed by interdisciplinary supervision of the PhD project, documented by the members of the “PhD committee”. The long-term goal is not only to enhance exchange and interaction between these disciplines, but to enforce a new integrated concept, where separation between disciplines becomes obsolete. Existing interdisciplinary networks and multidisciplinary approaches demonstrate the synergy and benefits of bridging projects and research.


 List of closed research projects (ESSReS phase-I projects (2008-2011))