Earth Surface and Climate Interactions: Probing records to constrain mechanisms and sensitivities

A challenge for geoscientists is to distinguish changes of the Earth surface driven by natural forces from changes induced by global warming and population growth. We use information provided by the past and present to explore how climate change affects the Earth surface and how surface processes, in turn, feed back into atmospheric composition and climate. We investigate weathering and erosion, hydrologic and green house gas cycles, the transport of solid and dissolved matter from the continents to the oceans, and how living organisms modulate these interactions.

The interaction between the Earth’s climate and its surface is a two-way process that we address in two subtopics:

1. Regional climate change: Impact on Earth’s surface
2. Earth’s surface: Influencing atmosphere and climate

These two subtopics are coupled through the global transmission of feedbacks via Earth’s atmosphere: global teleconnections broadcast atmospheric signals to every single point on Earth without significant delay but their local expressions are damped, delayed, and convolved with the effects of other influences. At any given location, individual weather events or their long-term mean govern Earth surface processes including their abiotic (water flow, weathering, erosion) and biotic (vegetation, microbial life) components. These events are superimposed on long-term trends, governed by tectonics or mineral dissolution kinetics, amongst others.

We develop methods that allow us to monitor and model these processes, from the present through the geological past. We use and develop novel environmental sensors, new geochemical proxy methods, microbiological tools, remote sensing methods and other innovative tools to explore the surface and shallow subsurface of our planet.



Niels Hovius
Section Head
Prof. Dr. Niels Hovius
Building F, Room 420
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-28810


Achim Brauer
Section Head
Prof. Dr. Achim Brauer
Climate Dynamics and Landscape Evolution
Building C, Room 324
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1330