GFZ German research centre for geo sciences

Earth System Observatories

Our observatories are a key instrument for a comprehensive understanding of the system Earth. The combination of monitoring programmes and observatories allows for an observation of the processes shaping the Earth system from a local to a global scale. Our main focus is on identifying and analysing natural hazards and observing the impacts of global climate change. We are running two types of observatories. On the one hand those with an instrumental focus on only one type of signal but with a global coverage, on the other hand the regional Earth System Observatories.

The Earth System Observatories combine an instrumental time axis with geological long-term observations. They focus on coupled processes and many signals and are run by a cooperation of several GFZ sections. The form the backbone of our research activities and are optimally suited for a systemic study of coupled Earth processes and their impact on the human habitat. Currently, we are running eight Earth System Observatories:


GONAF aims at gaining new insights into the physical processes before, during and after a large earthquake, by using a borehole-based seismometer network at the offshore part of Eastern Sea of Marmara (NW Turkey).

Northeastern German Lowland Observatory | TERENO-NE

TERENO-NE, the observatory “TERrestrial Environmental Observatories - Northeastern German Lowland Observatory” focusses on the impact of climate and land use change on terrestrial ecosystems and comprises six main research sites, stretching from the Uckermark region to the Baltic Sea coast.

[Translate to English:] Bohrung

Central European Volcanic Province Observatory | CVO

The primary scientific goal of the Central European Volcanic Province Observatory is to better understand and map the processes in transcrustal magma systems beneath distributed intraplate volcanic fields, and to assess their volcanic hazard and their potential sustainable use for energy generation and natural resource deposit.

Etna from far

Focus sites: Etna and southern Italy volcanoes

The eastern to south-eastern flank of Mount Etna slides into the Ionian Sea at a rate of several centimetres per year. Such unstable flanks can have catastrophic consequences and trigger landslides that can lead to tsunamis. The Etna region in southern Italy is ideal for understanding how such dangers develop.

[Translate to English:] SMARTIES Station auf Island im Eis


The task of SMARTIES [Supercritical fluids and MAgma Reconnaissance for Transformative Iceland Energy Solutions] is to register long-term measurement series in order to obtain an interdisciplinary observation and modelling approach for the evaluation of reservoirs. The design of appropriate strategies for the optimal quantification of reservoirs and harnessing of geothermal resources (heat and energy production) will enable energy sustainability through a better constrained model defining optimized resource management.

[Translate to English:] Station in Zentralasien, im Hintergrund schneebedeckte Berge

Global Change Observatory Central Asia | GCOCA

In cooperation with the Central Asian Institute of Applied Geosciences, we maintain a network of remotely-operated multiparameter stations (ROMPS) in Central Asia. The stations continuously acquire a multitude of hydrometeorological parameters that are used to study changes in climate, water availability, and glacier mass balances.

[Translate to English:] Blick in eine Schlucht mit Fluss im Taroko Nationalpark

Taroko Earth Surface Observatory | TESO

The observatory is a long-term monitoring site of Earth surface processes, solid, solute and gaseous matter fluxes and biogeochemical cycles and their drivers, straddling an active mountain landscape from orogen ridgepole to coastline in Taiwan.

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