Section 4.7: Earth Surface Process Modelling



Fastscape is a set of open-source software components aimed at making landscape evolution models and topographic analysis algorithms readily accessible to a wide range of users, from experts in landscape evolution modelling to scientists, researchers and teachers in the broader Earth science community.

More info:





“Source-to-Sink” (S2S) system modelling

In this animation we show the results of a computation performed with FastScape. It represents a so-called “Source-to-Sink” or S2S system with sediments traveling from the source area (the actively uplifting and eroding mountain), through the continental plain at the foot of the mountain before being deposited on the seafloor where they accumulate to form what we call the marine sedimentary record. For many years, geologists have been trying to “invert” that sedimentary record to infer past tectonic and climatic conditions. Using FastScape we can test a large number of scenarios and compare their predictions to the sedimentary record and, from this comparison, determine the plausibility of the tested scenarios. In this example, the system is subjected to variations in precipitation rate and sea-level. Periods of high sea-level correspond to periods of reduced precipitation and therefore reduced sediment production in the source area.  This leads to cycles of progradation (when the sediments are preferentially deposited offshore) followed by period of aggradation (when the sediments accumulate in the nearshore area). The model can also predict the geometry of rivers flowing on the coastal area with, for example, a marked transition from single to multiple channel transport during periods of sea level fall.



Pecube, a 3D thermo-kinematic model to interpret thermochronological data. Pecube solves the 3D heat equation and tracks the position of rock particles to compute their thermal histories, and from them, estimates of their ages for a wide range of thermochronological systems. Pecube is also designed to be used for large-scale inversions of thermochronological data, using an impeded version of the Neighbourhood Algorithm.

Pecube can be found on GitHub:



Our modelling work is supported by access to state-of-the-art computing facilities at the GFZ, PIK and other local and national institutes. The section has also acquired a small cluster for internal use:

  • 48 Intel Xeon Gold 6230 CPUs, each with 20 cores/40 threads
  • 16 GB DDR4 2666 MHz ECC-registered RAM
  • 1 TB HDD

As well as a GPU server:

  • Dell PowerEdge R940xa
  • 4 NVIDIA Tesla V100 32G Passive GPUs
  • 4 Intel Xeon Gold 6152 with 256 GB RAM

Our section is located in the main floor of the historical Großer Refraktor building on top of the Telegrafenberg, where we work in a large open space fitted with modern work stations including high resolution monitors, a large seminar/meeting room and other offices/facilities.



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