Section 4.7: Earth Surface Process Modelling

Research approach

In our research group, we develop computer models to simulate the processes responsible for the evolution of the Earth's surface, such as bedrock incision by rivers and glaciers in mountain ranges, or the slow weathering of rock in low relief continental interiors. In doing so, we provide a framework to integrate field observations and laboratory measurements, and make predictions about places where no data exists or concerning the future evolution of the Earth's surface.

Our group employs a range of researchers who all share a common interest in computer models, but who are from a variety of research backgrounds, including geology, geophysics and mathematics. We also work closely with colleagues in other sections of the GFZ as well as other German and international research institutions and universities.

From time to time we are able to offer projects/internships to students interested in our research topics.


News from Section 4.7 on Twitter:

Latest News

We are seeking a Research Group Leader!

In Section 4.7, we are currently looking to hire a new Research Group Leader. The position is advertised with a closing date of 2nd October 2022 and more details can be found on the GFZ jobs page.


Welcome to Dr. Dingzhu Liu, OCPC Fellow

On March 1st, Dr. Dingzhu Liu joined our section as an OCPC-Helmholtz post-doctoral fellow. The OCPC-Helmholtz fellowship is co-funded by the Helmholtz Association and the Office of China Postdoc Council to support outstanding Chinese post-doctoral talents and to strengthen the cooperation between Helmholtz Research Centers and Chinese partner institutions.

Dr. Dingzhu Liu will work with Dr. Hui Tang, Prof. Dr. Jean Braun, and Dr. Jens Turowski from Section 4.6: Geomorphology. His work will focus on understanding how debris flows and landslides change landscapes. To do that, he will integrate extreme short-term processes, such as landslides and debris flows, into a long-term landscape evolution model to form a multi-scale landscape evolution model.

Dr. Dingzhu Liu recently finished his Ph.D. at the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences. His Ph.D. work mainly focused on earthen dam breaches, outburst floods, and submarine debris flows through physical experiments and numerical modeling. He is also a member of the NSFC-GFZ joint project: Understanding the seismic response of large-scale landslide and debris flows for developing disaster risk early warning methods, headed by Dr. Jens Turowski. 


Dec. 2021: Workshop series: Sino-German Mobility project “Mountain Hazards under Climate Change" (MHCC)

As part of the Sino-German Mobility project “Mountain Hazards under Climate Change (MHCC)” between GFZ and IMHE (funded by DFG and NSFC), Dr. Hui Tang, Dr. Michael Dietze from section 4.6, Dr. Jens Turowski from section 4.6, and Dr. Gordon Zhou from IMHE organized the first hands-on workshop series from Wednesday 1st Dec to Friday 3rd Dec, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm (Berlin time; 4:00-7:00 pm Beijing Time). The topic of the first workshop was “Environmental seismology for mountain hazards”.

For the first part of the workshop, we  invited Dr. Fabian Walter from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) to a public lecture on Wednesday, 1st Dec. About 40 scientists from different institutes worldwide  joined the public lecture. For the second part of the workshop, Dr. Tang and Dr. Zhou gave two talks about the physics of debris flow and environmental seismology on day two.

About 15 students and postdocs  joined the hands-on section of the workshop to learn about seismic methods for mountain hazards. Dr. Dietze and Dr. Turowski  taught students how to install equipment, design sensor networks, process data, and locate events in hands-on sections. Ms. Sophie Lagarde and Dr. Ci-jian Yang supported us with setting up the workshop. During the final part of the workshop, students presented their research projects. We are looking forward to seeing them apply these methods in their research.



December 2021: Welcome to Dr. Hannah Davies!

On December 1st 2021, Dr Hannah Davies joined the section as a post-doctoral researcher. Her work will focus on understanding patterns of sediment production and transport on an Early Earth where subduction-driven tectonics as we know it today was not fully established. She will also investigates potential mechanisms for the role of the extensive glaciation that may have triggered erosion and sediment transport when our planet’s tectonics was still dominated by more diffuse flow in the mantle and thus longer wavelength and lower amplitude surface topography. For this she will develop a continental- to planetary-scale model of erosion and sediment transport that she will couple to various kinematic and dynamic models of plate motion on a convecting mantle and, later, to a simplified climatic model tuned for the conditions of the mid-Proterozoic.

Dr Hannah Davies recently completed her PhD at the University of Lisbon during which she focused on the relationship between tides and tectonics to understand how changes in the tides, induced by plate tectonic motion during supercontinent cycles, affect other components of the Earth system, such as climate and habitability. We welcome Hannah to our section. She is also a member of the ERC-Synergy MEET project headed by Professor Stefan Sobolev in Section 2.5 (Geodynamic modeling).


November 2021: Welcome to Dr. Chuanqi He

On November 1st, Dr. Chuanqi He joined the section as a post-doctoral researcher. He will work in Dr Hui Tang’s Group “Hazards and Surface Processes” on constraining the factors controlling the velocity of drainage divides over geological time scales using numerical model and comparing their predictions to geological observations pertaining to the evolution of the main divide in the Taiwanese orogen. For this, he will collaborate with Prof. Dr Jean Braun and Professor Xiaoping Yuan from the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan. Dr Chuanqi He received his PhD from Zhejiang University this year. During his PhD, he visited the GFZ for a period of one year.



September 2021: Welcome to Guanghui Chen

On September 1st, Guanghui Chen joined the section as a visiting doctoral researcher from Central South University, China. He holds an MSc degree in civil engineering from the same institution. He will spend two years with us in Dr Hui Tang’s Research Group “Hazards and Surface Processes” working on characterizing and understanding the mechanisms responsible for the transient distribution of landslides triggered by a large earthquake.


Welcome to Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Esteban Acevedo-Trejos

We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Esteban Acevedo-Trejos in Section 4.7, who joined us from the Systems Ecology Group at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Bremen. The position in our section forms part of Project C7 entitled „Modelling the co-evolution of life and landform“ of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1211 . The CRC is a project between several German universities, with the University of Cologne as a lead institution. We are delighted to have gained such an experienced researcher and look forward to an exciting exchange of ideas.


A warm welcome to Dr. Jingtao Lai

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Jingtao Lai to the section. Jingtao recently completed his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where his doctoral studies focused on constraining tectonic and climatic controls on glacial and postglacial landscape evolution using numerical modeling.

At the GFZ, Jingtao will examine the influence of sediment flux dynamics on postglacial fluvial incision of the Alps. Welcome Jingtao!


The ESD (Earth Surface Dynamics) Seminar Series now has its own website:

Please check it out for details of past and future talks, including abstracts and information about the speakers.


Landscapes Live Talks

Talks from the Landscapes Live seminar series are still available to view on the Landscapes Live YouTube channel!



S2S FUTURE - Signal Propagation from Source To Sink For the Future of Earth Resources and Energy

Several of our section members are involved in the S2S (Source-to-sink) FUTURE ITN (Innovative Training Network) funded by the European Union. They include Amanda Wild, Caroline Fenske and Jean Braun. The objectives of S2S-FUTURE are to understand, quantify and model the sediment routing system from the sediment production (source) to the sediment deposition (sink); its tectonic and climatic controls; and to establish generic rules for a full understanding of signals propagation in S2S systems for building predictive models of sediment location and characteristics. These studies of S2S systems require interdisciplinary approaches combining geomorphology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, geochemistry, tectonic and paleoclimatology coupling observations, quantifications and process modelling.



December 2020: Welcome to doctoral researcher Amanda Wild

On 1st December Amanda Wild joined our section as a doctoral researcher funded (like Caroline Fenske) by the ITN S2S FUTURE. Amanda will work on the development of a model to track grain size in a landscape evolution model. She will use it to interpret data gathered by partners within the network and, in particular, a unique record documented rapid changes in erosional and depositional conditions during the PETM from the Pyrenees. Amanda recently obtained her MSc from the University of Victoria in British Columbia (Canada).


November 2020: Welcome to doctoral researcher Caroline Fenske

On November 1st, Caroline Fenske joined our section as a doctoral researcher to work on the development of a new weathering model that she will use to interpret observational constraints from cratonic and tectonic environments, namely southern Africa and the Pyrenees. She will team up with another 14 PhD students scattered across many European research institutions (University of Geneva, Rennes, Imperial College, and many more) to study source-to-sink (S2S) systems at a wide range of temporal scales. This Innovative Training Network (ITN) is funded by the European Commission and focuses on a multi-disciplinary approach that combines field, laboratory and modelling training. Caroline joins us after finishing her Master degree at the University Paul Sabatier in Toulouse (France).


October 2020: Welcome to Dr. Oliver Francis

We are happy to welcome our new section member, Dr. Oliver Francis, to join us. Ollie finished his Ph.D. at Cardiff University. He mostly worked on sediment processes after a large earthquake, including post-seismic landslide and debris flow, for his Ph.D. thesis. In his Ph.D. project, he has quantified the sediment cascade for about ten years following the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China. In our section, Ollie will work on developing a new debris flow model with different debris flow initiation mechanisms, especially for the 'firehose' effect, and combining the model with the state-of-the-art landscape evolution models to study how climate and tectonics control debris-flow-dominated landscape.



Sept. 2020: Welcome to the section, Dr.  Anne-Morwenn Pastier!

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Anne-Morween Pastier to the section. Anne-Morween completed her PhD at the Université de Rennes 1, where her doctoral studies focused on the hydrologic and geodynamic evolution of the Okavango Delta. Since completing her PhD, she has worked as an adjunct lecturer at the Université de Rouen, teaching petrology, sedimentology, and tectonics to bachelors students. In the Earth Surface Process Modelling section, Anne-Morween will focus on the evolution of coral reefs and bedrock coasts, particularly their sensitivity to the combined effects of sea level oscillations, vertical land motion, wave erosion, and reef growth. Welcome Anne-Morwenn!


June 2020: A warm welcome to Dr. Boris Gailleton

We are very happy to welcome Boris Gailleton in the section. Boris has completed his PhD at the University of Edinburgh where he worked with Hugh Sinclair and Simon Mudd. For his doctoral thesis, Boris worked on unravelling composite forcings on channel steepness in the Carpathians with a morphometric analysis of the river profiles in the range. He could show that although the most prominent knickzones found in multiple neighboring rivers were expressing lithologic forcing, the tectonic signal could still be unravelled with systematic cross-comparisons and field constrains. This allowed him to establish an overview of neotectonic deformation across the entire range. To do so, Boris developed several tools for morphometric analysis and landscape evolution modelling published within the LSDTopoTools framework. In the Earth Surface Modelling section, Boris will focus on the development of landscape evolution models that can 1) properly handle local sinks of water and sediment and 2) evolve over heterogenous lithologies with varying permeability.


Seminar series "Landscapes Live" kicks off!

In the current situation, scheduled visits to our section and planned seminars have had to be cancelled.

However, you can check out Landscapes Live, an online seminar series co-organised by Dr. Charles Shobe, which kicks off with the first talk on 4 June 2020. Scheduled as part of the programme so far are Anneleen Geurts (University of Bergen), Liran Goren (Ben Gurion University of the Negev), Robert Hilton (Durham University), Fiona Clubb (Durham University), and Georgie Bennett (University of Exeter).


OCPC Postdoc Program fellow

We are happy to announce that a research scientist from China has joined us in January 2020 on a Helmholtz-OCPC Postdoc Program fellowship. Dr. Shuai Li got his PhD in Hydraulic Engineering from Sichuan University in June 2015. He will work on the initiation, transport, and impact of modelled boulder in debris flow during his stay with us.


Welcoming Dr. Luca Malatesta

We extend a warm welcome to our new Senior Scientist Dr. Luca Malatesta.

Dr. Malatesta has joined us from the Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, in January 2020.

"I study the record of climatic and tectonic signals on the Earth surface. I work on the relationships between the morphology of active margins from shelf to marine terraces, the earthquake cycles at subduction megathrusts and changes in sea level. Another of current subjects of study is the role of rivers in shaping (or not) landscapes where their water and sediment discharge does not canonically increase with drained area."

We are thrilled to have him working with us!


New research fellow Dr. Xiujun Xu

We are happy to announce that a research scientist from China has joined us in November 2019 on a Helmholtz-OCPC Postdoc Program fellowship. Dr. Xiujun Xu got his PhD from Harbin Engineering University about design optimization and performance prediction on Coastal engineering in June 2018. He will work on tsunami and storm surge sediment transport modelling during his stay with us.


New section members!

We are thrilled to announce that two research scientists, Dr. Erik Chan and Dr. Charlie Shobe, have joined us in September 2019. Dr. Chan has backgrounds in Astrophysics, Geophysics, and Planetary Sciences. His work covered distinct topics, including the rotational stability of terrestrial planets, the interior structure of the Moon, the possible evidence for an ancient ocean on Mars, and ice-age palæoclimate and sea level. The intersection of these topics lies in the complex, but elegant interplay between global geophysics, planetary interior properties and dynamics, and planetary surface processes. With collaborators in many different fields of research, Dr. Chan uses old-fashioned theoretical development, numerical methods, and statistical analyses of data to thread together various disciplines in the continual quest to make sense of it all.

Dr. Charlie Shobe is joining the section to work on modelling the development of deep marine stratigraphy. He will be working towards inverting deep marine stratigraphy to understand the long-term denudation history of passive margin landscapes. Charlie received his PhD in August 2019 from the University of Colorado, where he worked on a variety of problems in river and hillslope geomorphology as well as landscape evolution model development.

Feedback und report from our intern

The section's intern, Lena Jebasinski, has written the following summary for us following her internship, which she completed on 31 July 2019. We are happy to hear that she has enjoyed her time with us.


"After completing my bachelor‘s degree in Earth Sciences, I did an internship in the Section Earth Surface Process Modelling at the GFZ in Potsdam from May to July 2019. The aim of the internship was to familiarize myself with the possibilities of modelling geomorphological processes and thus to make conclusions about our planet and the processes running on it. I learned to edit, modify and apply landscape evolution models, implemented with the programming language Python.

At The Long Night of the Sciences I was able to apply the learning achievements directly and I created short animations for a presentation. I presented the talk successfully during The Long Night of the Sciences in the seminar room of the Great Refractor. Further tasks in the programming language Python gave me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge. In addition, I was able to participate in a new project. Through group meetings, seminars and paper reading groups, I also got a deep insight into projects of other employees of the GFZ, especially from our section. In this way, I got to know the research of the GFZ in various fields of geosciences.

The staff were all very friendly and helpful. I felt very welcome. The members in the section work very closely with each other and help each other out in many things. The large open office and the open, very helpful manner of working create a unique atmosphere that I will miss very much. I thank Jean Braun and the whole section for the friendly reception and the helpfulness."

Welcoming Dr. Hui Tang

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Hui Tang, who joined us from the University of Arizona on 1st July.

Dr. Hui Tang's research group studies natural hazards and related processes across a wide range of environments, from mountain regions to coastal areas even deep ocean over different time scales. The work has wide topics ranging from earthquake and tsunami, storm and hurricane, landslide and debris-flow, to flood and paleo-flood. We use a variety of tools and methods, including field survey, remote sensing, processes-based modelling, and machine learning to understand physical processes behind all these natural hazards.

INQUA 2019

Dr. Hui Tang has attended INQUA 2019 Congress held at Dublin, Ireland from 25th July to 31st July to present his recent work about improving tsunami hazard assessment by using geological records and inversion modelling.

COLORS Project Basin and Range field trip

Xiaoping and most people from the COLORS project joined a 6-day Basin and Range field trip starting on 11th of June. Prof. Brain Wernicke and two assistants from Caltech lead this fantastic trip. It really opened our ideas on the formation of Grand Canyon in the Colorado Plateau, compressive and later extensional tectonics in the Basin and Range Province, the formation of core complex, mountain and fans in the Death Valley. We are building up our understanding of the detailed field studies conducted in 1980s to form the great Wernicke's model. By the way, for the first time, I encountered the hottest temperature (maximum up to 50°) there.

Jean Braun receives Arthur Holmes Medal at EGU General Assembly 2019

Jean Braun, Kim Huppert, Katherine Kravitz, Igor Lisac, and Xiaoping Yuan attended the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly and Steepest Descent Meeting in Vienna, Austria April 8 - 13. At the EGU General Assembly, Jean received the Arthur Holmes Medal and Honorary Membership and gave an inspiring plenary lecture to a packed room on "Modelling landscape evolution: from simulation to inspiration". Jean's talk and the presentation of medals can be viewed on the EGU Webstreaming page.

EGU General Assembly and Steepest Descent Meeting 2019 in Vienna

Jean Braun, Kim Huppert, Katherine Kravitz, Igor Lisac, and Xiaoping Yuan attended the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly and Steepest Descent Meeting in Vienna, Austria April 8 - 13. At the EGU General Assembly, Jean received the Arthur Holmes Medal and Honorary Membership and gave an inspiring plenary lecture to a packed room on "Modelling landscape evolution: from simulation to inspiration".

Later in the week, Kim presented a highlight talk "Wave power and seacliff retreat rates in the Hawaiian Islands", Kat presented a highlight poster "The role of geomorphology and climate on macroevolutionary processes in Madagascar and Sri Lanka", Igor presented a poster "Application of a model for point-wise prediction of stream flow statistics using climatic and geomorphologic data to Taiwan", and Xiaoping presented a talk "Inverse analysis of Pearl River source-to-sink system, South China Sea: Implications for SE Tibetan uplift and monsoon intensification".

The group also enjoyed catching up with colleagues - including the third annual reunion dinner with the University of Lausanne Interactions between Climate and Earth surface processes (ICE) group - and learning about advances in geomorphology and other geosciences at the EGU General Assembly and at the Steepest Descent Meeting.

Visit from Luke McGuire and Hui Tang, University of Arizona

Assistant professor Luke McGuire and postdoctoral research scientist Hui Tang (University of Arizona) visited our section April 15 - 18. During their visit, Dr. McGuire presented a talk “The geomorphic impact of wildfire: from debris flow hazards to landscape evolution” in our section seminar.

Dr. McGuire and Dr. Tang also met with researchers in our section and other sections at the GFZ and had a chance to tour the Großer Refraktor telescope during their stay. We are excited to have Dr. Tang join our research group as a senior research scientist this summer, and we look forward to future collaborations and scientific exchange with Dr. McGuire's research group.

Fortran Interface FastScapeLib release

Today (Monday 4th February 2019), we released the latest version of the Fortran Interface FastScapeLib on GitHub thanks to Xiaoping Yuan, Jean Braun and Benoît Bovy who worked very hard to make it easy to use and install. The software solving the basic landscape evolution equations (stream power law, including the effect of sedimentation, and hill slope processes) is designed to be linked to any tectonic model (from a simple flexural model to any complex 3D thermo-mechanical model). It is written in Fortran but can be called from Fortran, C, C++, Python and (soon) Matlab. It is designed to run on any platform (MacOS, Linux and Windows) thanks to Benoît’s efforts and is available at:

EGU announces Jean Braun will receive the Arthur Holmes Medal and Honorary Membership

On October 17, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) announced that Jean Braun has been selected to receive the Arthur Holmes Medal and Honorary Membership for "exceptional international merit and scientific achievements in solid Earth geosciences" at the EGU General Assembly in Vienna, Austria April 8-12, 2019. The Arthur Holmes medal is one of the most prestigious awards bestowed by EGU. Jean will present a plenary lecture at the award ceremony when he receives his medal in Vienna.          

Congratulations Jean!

Addendum: Jean's talk and the award ceremony are available to view on the EGU Web Streaming page.

SINTEF Winter School 2019: Learning from Data in Geilo, Norway

Kim Huppert attended the 2019 Geilo Winter School on eScience: Learning from Data in Geilo, Norway January 20 - 25, funded by the Research Council of Norway. The winter school covered a range of topics including data assimilation, inverse modeling, parameter estimation, uncertainty quantification, value of information, and machine learning in fifteen 90-minute lectures (conveniently scheduled in the mornings and evenings to allow for a long mid-day ski break!).

Debugging FastScape Interface

From January 15 to 17 a small working group of the COLORS consortium (from Bergen, Rennes and Toulouse) met to help Xiaoping Yuan and Jean Braun debug the latest release of the FastScape Interface that we are currently polishing for release. The Interface is designed to be coupled to a thermo-mechanical model but can also be used in any stand-alone Fortran, C, Python or Matlab code.

AGU Fall Meeting 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Benoît Bovy, Ruohong Jiao, Kim Huppert, and Xiaoping Yuan attended the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in Washington, D.C., USA December 10 - 14. Benoît presented a short talk and poster "Xarray-simlab: a Python package to build, customize and run computational models interactively", Jiao presented a poster "Constraining 90 Ma landscape evolution model of Madagascar using erosional and sedimentary data", Kim presented an invited talk "The imprint of discharge variability on bedrock river incision on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i", and Xiaoping presented a talk "A new efficient, O(n) and implicit method to solve the stream power law taking into account sediment transport and deposition". In addition to presenting their research, Benoît, Jiao, Kim, and Xiaoping enjoyed hearing about the latest scientific results across the geosciences and catching up with the broader community (including members of Section 4.6 in a shared conference apartment!)

Visit from Michael Lamb, Caltech

Professor Michael Lamb visited the GFZ December 3 - 6. During his visit, Professor Lamb presented a lecture (co-hosted by sections 4.6 and 4.7) "Bedrock Canyons Carved by the Largest Known Floods on Earth and Mars" and met with scientists in our section and other sections across the GFZ.

Earth Surface Dynamics Lecture by Todd Ehlers, Universität Tübingen

Section 4.7 invited Professor Todd Ehlers to the GFZ December 3-4 to give the Earth Surface Dynamics (ESD) Lecture. The new ESD lecture series (co-organized by sections 3.3, 3.5, 3.7, 4.3, 4.4, 4.6, and 4.7) aims to bring together the broad range of researchers on Telegrafenberg looking at Earth surface processes. The goal for these talks is to be broad and accessible and deal with big, global topics, so that non-experts and specialists alike find them enlightening. Professor Ehlers's talk "Latitudinal Variations in the Influence of Vegetation on Catchment Denudation" was well attended by scientists working in research groups across the GFZ, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and the Alfred Wegner Institute (AWI). During his visit, Professor Ehlers also gave a specialized talk on “Formation of Topography by Seismic Slow Slip Events: The Olympic Mountains (USA)” in a workshop on links between tectonics and topography organized by our section. The workshop also featured talks by Professor Onno Oncken (“Seismic cycle and topography uplift at convergent plate boundaries - does it scale?”) and Dr. Pia Victor ("Exploring the seismotectonic significance of shallow triggered slip captured with the IPOC Creepmeter Array“) of Section 4.1. We enjoyed meeting with Todd during his visit.

Intern visit to our section

Gustav, the intern coming from local Humboldt-Gymnasium Potsdam joined GFZ from 26th November to 4th December, 2018. During that period, he spent some time in our section where we, in addition to giving him a brief intro of GFZ, our section and fascinating office building, introduced him to our main activities in a general sense. Also, we talked with him about our separate and group projects, about the importance of numerical modelling and showed him some basic data analysis tools and results.

COLORS Meeting in Pau

From Monday 26th November to Wednesday 28th November 2018, Xiaoping Yuan and Jean Braun attended a COLORS meeting at the R&D Total laboratory in Pau, France. We presented our latest results to our Total colleagues showcasing our recent advances in developing our FastScape landscape evolution models and its use to invert (in a Bayesian sense) geological data and, in particular, stratigraphic data. We were joined in our presentation by other members of the COLORS consortium from Toulouse, Rennes, Grenoble and Bergen.

Landscape Genomics

From November 26-30, 2018, Katherine Kravitz attended a course in Berlin on landscape genomics, a field that studies how the environment can modify the distribution of genetic diversity across a landscape. The workshop provided an overview of how to analyze environmental and genetic data in conjunction to study population structure and local adaptation. The attendees of the workshop spanned across many disciplines and had a wide variety of interest in different processes and external factors that impact environment and adaptation. It was a great way to learn some of the leading approaches and tools necessary to understand the link between landscape and biodiversity.

Visit from Nikos Theodoratos, ETH Zurich

Nikos Theodoratos, a PhD student at ETH Zurich, visited the Earth Surface Process Modelling group (formerly Section 5.5, now renamed 4.7) at GFZ on October 17-19, 2018 in preparation for his submitting a proposal to the Swiss National Foundation to obtain funding for a post-doctoral position in our section. During his PhD studies at ETH in Zurich, Nikos has written a very insightful paper (published in ESURFD) on the scaling of the Stream Power Law.

Following his visit, Nikos sent us the following message:

“Dear Section 5.5, Thank you for your hospitality and for the opportunity to present my work at your seminar! I especially appreciated the effort you put into connecting me with researchers from other GFZ groups and the University of Potsdam, which led to many discussions with very interesting people. Your office, located in an old observatory and surrounded by nature, is a very stimulating and fun place to work at; I really enjoyed my time there.

Warm regards, Nikos”

GeoMod2018 conference in Barcelona

From October 1-4, several members of our section (Jean, Igor, and Xiaoping) attended the GeoMod2018 conference in Barcelona, dedicated to the latest results of analogue and numerical modelling in Geosciences. The presenters' areas of expertise varied widely (e.g., tectonics, volcanic processes, surface processes, lithosphere dynamics, rock physics, and geofluids), and all were generally happy with their own work and the interesting feedback received.

Our section members presented their latest ideas, methods and results of numerical modeling of surface processes. For example, Jean presented "Efficient algorithms for the simulation of Earth surface processes", Igor showed his latest result of "Application of a model for point-wise prediction of stream flow statistics using climatic and geomorphologic data on Walnut Gulch (Arizona)", and Xiaoping presented the new method of sediment transport and deposition on land. They enjoyed very much the feedback to their presentations.

Thermo 2018 Conference in Quedlinburg

From 16-21 September, Jean, Audrey, Jessica, and Jiao attended the Thermo 2018 conference in Quedlinburg, Germany. This international conference is held every two years, focusing on the development in methodology and application of low-temperature thermochronology. There were many interesting and inspiring talks, posters, and discussions. The attendees from our section took the opportunity to present their current work.

Jean talked about the "time scale for orogenic growth and decay”. Audrey gave a talk on the “roles of erosion and isostasy in topography building” in the case of Cordillera Blanca, and presented new data and interpretation about the uplift and denudation histories of the Namibian passive margin. Jess gave an invited talk on the roles of erosion and mantle dynamics in the landscape evolution of southern Africa. After the main program of the conference, Jean gave a half-day course, introducing the new version of Pecube, a thermo-kinematic model to solve heat transport in the crust and invert thermochronological data.

Trip to Lausanne, June 2018

Our section spent the month of June in Lausanne, hosted by Prof Herman (Frédéric) at the Université de Lausanne (UNIL), a specialist in the study of glacier dynamics and glacial erosion. This was the second part of an exchange program partly funded by the Fondation Herbette. During the entire month, our section was fully integrated within the Lausanne group in the Geopolis building on the Unil campus.

We organized bi-daily short seminars (part of the now famous “Monique Seminar Series”) where each researcher presented an aspect of his/her current research and/or a novel technique he/she has developed. This served as a catalyst for further informal interactions, which, in some instances, led to formal collaborations through the setting up of common projects. Expertise was also shared on the use and development of numerical methods. The Lausanne group has much experience in the development of numerical models of glacier dynamics and glacial erosion. Several of Frédéric’s PhD students organized a two-day field trip to Zermatt and the Gorner Glacier. On the way from Lausanne, we travelled through the Rhone Valley where we discovered various geomorphological features. At several sites we dwelled in intense discussions about many topics such as the propagation of knickpoints, the relative efficiency of glacial vs fluvial erosion, or the circulation within Lake Geneva. On the second day, we visited the Gorner Glacier where Frédéric’s team explained the various field experiments they currently conduct there.

During our stay in Lausanne, several visitors joined us for a few days: Guillaume Cordonnier from Grenoble, Konstanze Stübner from Uni Potsdam, Eric Deal from MIT, Guillaume Baby from Rennes, Erika Erlanger from ETH, Olivier Beyssac from Paris and Simon Cox from Otago (NZ).

The visit led to the following collaborative projects/activities:

  • Development of an implicit method to solve the glacial erosion equations
  • Development of a TL/OSL model for incorporation into thermochronological (Pecube) software
  • Further development of a method to estimate ice thickness from ice surface geometry
  • Joint research project aimed at estimating an equivalent of Hack’s Law for glacier flow
  • Inversion of thermochronological data from the Andes ⁃ Validation of methods to interpret thermochronological data
  • Many interactions with other faculty/research staff at Unil outside of Frédéric’s group (ecologists, hydrologists, other geomorphologists, etc.)

The University of Lausanne is also ideally located along the shore of Lake Geneva. Members of the section really enjoyed it with regular swims, barbecues and runs along the lake shore, as well as many climbing excursions during the weekends. Weather was beautiful and allowed us to fully enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

EGU annual meeting 2018

During April 8-13, most of our section members attended the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna.

The diversity of sessions provided something for every taste: members of the section were seen attending talks and posters on geomorphology, hydrology, geoinformatics, glaciology, paleontology, space science ... After all, one of the advantages of a large international conference is the broad expertise on display. Members of 5.5 displayed their own expertise in the form of poster presentations at the meeting. Most opted for a traditional format, while Benoit Bovy and Kim Huppert had to deal with the particular opportunities as well as challenges of an interactive poster presentation called PICO®. The presenters' experiences varied widely, but all were generally happy with their own work and the interesting feedback received.

Towards the end of the meeting, everyone enjoyed catching up with Frederic Herman's group from University of Lausanne: there were plans to be made for the group visit coming up in June. Check back in a couple of months to see if any came to fruition!

Erik Tamre (on behalf of Section 5.5)

Group Retreat, Belgium, October 2017

For our first group retreat, we spent a great weekend at the end of October in the Belgian Ardennes! We enjoyed walking across lovely landscapes such as the (wet) Haute-Fagnes plateau and the valleys of Semois and Ninglinspo, where we saw some interesting geomorphological features. We also visited the city of Liège as well as the Bastogne War Museum that immersed us into the Battle of the Bulge. Of course, we also enjoyed local food specialities and fine Belgian beers!

Source-to-Sink (S2S) workshop in Paris & COLORS Fall Meeting in Pau

From 13th November to 19th November 2019, Jean Braun and Xiaoping Yuan attended a S2S workshop in Paris, and COLORS Fall Meeting at the R&D Total laboratory in Pau, France. Jean showed the inverse analysis of the South China Sea to TOTAL exploration team (mostly specialists from structural, stratigraphy and petroleum system modeling depts), and presented recent advances in developing our FastScape landscape evolution models to the COLORS team. Xiaoping presented the latest results on the South China Sea in the Paris workshop, and on the SE Tibetan Plateau in Pau. We were joined in our presentations by other members of the COLORS consortium from Toulouse, Rennes, Grenoble and Bergen.


Section 4.7 Seminars

Next upcoming seminars:


Normally, our section hosts regular seminars with speakers from all over the world. In the current situation, scheduled visits to our section and planned seminars have had to be cancelled. However, please check out Landscapes Live, a weekly online seminar series co-organised by our Dr. Charles Shobe. Scheduled as part of the programme so far are Anneleen Geurts (University of Bergen), Liran Goren (Ben Gurion University of the Negev), Robert Hilton (Durham University), Fiona Clubb (Durham University), and Georgie Bennett (University of Exeter). Follow the link for details of the programme and how to register.



List of past seminars




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