ESM Advanced Earth System Modelling Capacity – Criticality of the Stress State in Central Western Europe

Time Frame: 2017-2020

Funding: Helmholtz Association

Principal Investigators:Oliver Heidbach  and Fabrice Cotton 

Personnel: Ph.D. student Malte Ziebarth

Project Website:

Cooperations: Mauro Cacace, Leni Scheck-Wenderoth, Judith Sippl , GFZ Section 6.1, Germany; Eric Calais, ENS, Paris, France; Malte Westerhaus, KIT, Germany; Olaf Kolditz, Helmholtz-Centre Leipzig UFZ, Germany

The ultimate goal of the ESM project is to develop, evaluate and apply a world-leading Earth system modelling infrastructure - leading into an Earth System Simulator - to provide solutions to grand challenges faced by the Earth and environmental sciences. Our contribution is to model the large scale thermo-mechanical processes that control the contemporary deformation pattern in central Western Europe on scales from 10 km 1000 km, and to conceptually link the result into a workflow of physics-based probabilistic seismic hazard assessment for low strain areas. The classical probabilistic seismic hazard assessment (PSHA) is based on seismic event catalogues and does not yet consider physical processes of stress and strain accumulation during the seismic cycle. In particular for low strain intraplate regions this approach is under controversial debate in past years (e.g. Calais et al., 2016).

The model will integrate a wide range of data such as gravity, seismological catalogues, tectonic stress, temperature and GPS observations. Furthermore, the model results should be linked to a complementary ESM PhD position at the GFZ Potsdam (Section 6.1 – Basin Modelling) that is modelling thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) processes at basin and reservoir scale. The envisioned link is that the large scale model should deliver initial and boundary conditions for the THM simulations and both models are expected to establish jointly a workflow to quantify the key model uncertainties (e.g. Ziegler et al., 2016). We will validate the model against a wide range of geo-data sets (in particular stress data and GPS observations) and develop in the final stage of the project a concept how to link the model results in the classical PSHA approach.  


  • Ziegler, M., O. Heidbach, J. Reinecker, A. M. Przybycin, and M. Scheck-Wenderoth (2016). A multi-stage 3-D stress field modelling approach exemplified in the Bavarian Molasse Basin. Solid Earth, 7, 1365-1382,
  • Calais, E., Camelbeeck, T., Stein, R., Liu, M. and T. J. Craig (2016). A new paradigm for large earthquakes in stable continental plate interiors. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43,
Oliver Heidbach
Group Leader
Prof. Dr. Oliver Heidbach
Seismic Hazard and Risk Dynamics
Helmholtzstraße 6/7
Building H 6, Room 302
14467 Potsdam
+49 331 288-2814
Fabrice Cotton
Prof. Dr. Fabrice Cotton
Seismic Hazard and Risk Dynamics
Helmholtzstraße 6/7
Building H 6, Room 211
14467 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1125