Department 1: Geodesy and Remote Sensing
To better understand something that is very close, it often helps to view it from a distance. This is also true for Earth science research, where the perspective from near-Earth space allows a completely new look on our planet.
For example, the orbits of satellites can give us information about the shape of the Earth and its gravitational field. If the masses in the Earth interior were uniformly distributed, our home planet would have the shape of an ideal sphere. In reality however, the inside of the Earth is anything but homogeneous: In the Earth’s crust, thick sedimentary layers alternate with huge blocks of granite. The roots of the high mountain ranges reach deep into the upper mantle, while the Earth’s crust under the oceans is relatively thin. Density variations in the Earth's mantle and core also influence its gravitational field and through that, the Earth's shape. From high-precision measurements of the satellites' paths we can infer spatial and temporal gravity variations that provide information about the structure and dynamic changes in the Earth's interior and on its surface. Large-scale mass changes, induced, e.g., by deglaciation of ice masses in Greenland and Antarctica, can be quantified very accurately by these techniques.
In addition to the precise determination of satellite orbits, we analyse recordings from different sensors on numerous satellites. The precise surveying of ocean and ice surfaces with the technique of satellite altimetry belongs to this. The data from the GNSS and future Galileo satellites, the laser distance measurements from Earth observation satellites (SLR, satellite laser ranging) and the Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) give information about the shape of the Earth and the movements of tectonic plates. An important task hereby is the realization of a world-wide reference frame, which is necessary to enable, for instance, the precise measurement of the global sea level rise. From these manifold geodetic observations, information on the condition of the atmosphere that we provide for daily weather forecasting can be derived as well. We also analyse images taken by remote sensing satellites in order to understand the effects of climate change or to contribute to natural disaster risk mitigation strategies.
The interplay of information from all these measurements gives a dynamic overall picture of a very complex Earth system whose past history and future development is computer-modelled with the collected data. Our simulations range from the dynamics of the Earth's core and its surface to the investigation of the interactions between atmosphere, the oceans, and the solid Earth. The data, as well as the geoscientific results, are explored, analysed, and visualised with state-of-the-art geoinformation processing techniques and made available to other users.
- ATMO ground- und satellite-based GNSS Atmosphere Sounding
- EnMAP Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program
- FLEX FLuorescence EXplorer
- GEONET Geodynamic GPS Networks: CATS, GEODYSSEA, SAGA
- GITEWS/PROTECTS German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System
- GOCE Global Ocean Circulation Experiment
- GRACE und GRACE-FO Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment Mission (and Follow-on) with atmosphere studies
- SAGOS South African Geodynamic Observatory Sutherland of GFZ
- SLR Satellite Laser Ranging with the POTSDAM-3 station
- SRS Satellite Receiving Station Ny-Ålesund
- TOR (Tracking, Occultation and Ranging) Instrument on TerraSAR-X und TanDEM-X
Note: More projects can be found on the web-sites of the five Sections of Department 1.
Contributions to international Services
- ICGEM International Centre of Global Earth Models
- IERS International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service
- IGS International GNSS Service
- ILRS International Laser Ranging Service
- IVS International VLBI Service for Geodesy and Astrometry
Contributions to numerous international communities and scientific organisations
- IAG International Association of Geodesy
- IAU International Astronomical Union
- AGU American Geophysical Union
- EGU European Geosciences Union
- AOGS Asia Oceania Geosciences Society
Telefon: +49 331 288-1101