The Earth's surface is the interface at which the solid Earth, the atmosphere, the biosphere and the hydrosphere meet and interact. At the same time it provides a habitat for various living forms, spanning from microorganisms to the human beings. Natural variations and human interventions in the landscape and in water and matter cycles lead to changes on the skin of the Earth and feed back into the overall geosystem. These changes leave their marks (fingerprints) in various geoarchives such as lake sediments, organic matter rich soils and sediments, tree rings as well as in the entire landscapes. Our Department encompasses the expertise in deciphering the high-resolution geoarchives as well as in the measuring and modelling the processes and interactions at the Earth’s surface and in the deeper sediments at the recent and geological time scales. We attempt a better understanding of the Earth surface processes and at the same time deliver the fundamental knowledge for the development of adaptation strategies to the changing environment and for risk reduction to the human society.
The georesources soil and water, in addition to climate dynamics and landscape development are our current research topics. The pedosphere as the skin of the earth is the actual environment in which we live. We study the processes involving soil, water and air that have their confluence here, and the interactions between them which affect the landscape. We investigate natural climate dynamics and the forcing factors contributing to them from human influence. For this purpose, we evaluate classical terrestrial climate archives such as tree rings and annual sediment layers in lakes and oceans. We develop new, high resolution sedimentological, geochemical and and geophysical methods to decode the climate of the past. One special focus of our work deals with abrupt climate change and its causes. We also analyse how the frequency of extreme weather events, like floods and droughts, is affected by changing climate conditions. For our work we use geoarchives with good annual resolution for which we develop precise age models. We are working to improve on the quantification of the water cycle and its changes over time and space. Toward that goal, we first analyse heterogeneous datasets, that were collected using very different methods by different specialties, like geophysics, geodesy or remote sensing. Then we integrate these datasets with hydrological models of various scales in space and time – from local to global, from hours to decades. In another focus area, we develop methods to quantify risk, as well as for risk management in hydrological extreme events.