Priv. Doz. Dr. Sascha Brune

Sascha Brune
Priv. Doz. Dr. Sascha Brune
Albert-Einstein-Straße 42-46
Gebäude A 46, Raum 202
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1928
+49 331 288-1938

Funktion und Aufgaben:

Head of Geodynamic Modelling Section.

Head of Helmholtz Young Investigators Group CRYSTALS.

Supervision of 3 postdocs, 3 PhD students, and 2 undergraduate students.

Elected member and vice chair of GFZ's Internal Scientific Council

Wissenschaftliche Interessen:

My general scientific interests comprise lithosphere dynamics, natural hazards, plate tectonics, climate and their intricate links. My current main focus lies on the dynamics of rifting and continental breakup across the scales: from the localisation of faults and shear zones to lithospheric necking and the interaction with mantle convection and large-scale plate tectonics. To study these processes, I use a diverse set of modelling tools and integrate observations from structural geology, geophysical imaging, rheology, and plate reconstructions.

A list of more detailed research topics and representative papers is shown below.

Rifted continental margins

  • Brune, S.; Heine, C.; Perez-Gussinye, M.; Sobolev, S. V. (2014): Rift migration explains continental margin asymmetry and crustal hyper-extension. Nature Communications. 5:4014. doi:10.1038/ncomms5014. (Link to Paper)
  • Brune, S.; Popov, A. A.; Sobolev, S. V. (2012): Modeling suggests that oblique extension facilitates rifting and continental break-up. Journal of Geophysical Research, 117, B08402, doi:10.1029/2011JB008860. (Link to Paper)

Global plate tectonics

  • Brune, S., Williams, S.E., Butterworth, N.P., Müller, R.D. (2016): Abrupt plate accelerations shape rifted continental margins. Nature, 536 (7615), 201–204, doi:10.1038/nature18319. (More Info, Animations, and Downloads)
  • Brune, S., Williams, S.E., and Müller, R.D., (2018): Oblique rifting: the rule, not the exception,  Solid Earth, 9, 1187–1206, doi: 10.5194/se-9-1187-2018. (Animations, Database link, and Download

CO2 degassing and long-term climate change

  • Brune, S., Williams, S.E., and Müller, R.D. (2017): Potential links between continental rifting, COdegassing and climate change through time, Nature Geoscience, 10:12, 941-946, doi: 10.1038/s41561-017-0003-6. (Link to Paper)
  • Wong, K., Mason, E., Brune, S., East, M., Edmonds, M., & Zahirovic, S. (2019). Deep carbon cycling over the past 200 million years: a review of fluxes in different tectonic settings. Frontiers in Earth Science, 7. doi: 10.3389/feart.2019.00263. (Link to Paper)

Active rifts

  • Glerum, A., Brune, S., Stamps, D. S., & Strecker, M. R. (2020). Victoria continental microplate dynamics controlled by the lithospheric strength distribution of the East African Rift. Nature Communications, 11(1), 2881. (Link to Paper)
  • Corti, G., Cioni, R., Franceschini, Z., Sani, F., Scaillet, S., Molin, P., Isola, I., Mazzarini, F.,  Brune, S., Keir, D., Erbello, A., Muluneh, A., Illsley-Kemp, F., Glerum, A. (2019): Aborted propagation of the Ethiopian rift caused by linkage with the Kenyan rift. Nature Communications 10, 1309,  doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-09335-2. (Link to Paper)

Rheology and strain localization

  • Döhmann, M.,  Brune, S., Nardini, L., Rybacki, E., Dresen, G. (2019): Strain localization and weakening processes in viscously deforming rocks: numerical modeling based on laboratory torsion experiments. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 124(1), 1120–1137, (Link to Paper)
  • Brune, S., Heine, C., Clift, P.D., Pérez-Gussinyé, M. (2017): Rifted margin architecture and crustal rheology: Reviewing Iberia-Newfoundland, central South Atlantic, and South China Sea. Marine and Petroleum Geology79, 257-281, doi: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2016.10.018. (More Info, Animations, and Downloads)

Interaction of tectonics and surface processes

  • Ballato, P.,  Brune, S., and Strecker, M. R. (2019): Sedimentary loading–unloading cycles and faulting in intermontane basins: Insights from numerical modeling and field observations in the NW Argentine Andes.  Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 506, 388–396, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.10.043. (Link to Paper)
  • Clift, P., Brune, S., Quinteros, J. (2015): Climate changes control offshore crustal structure at South China Sea continental margin. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 420, 66-72, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.03.032. (Link to Paper)

Surface expressions of mantle convection

  • Ulvrova, M.M.,  Brune, S., Williams, S. (2019): Breakup without borders: how continents speed up and slow down during rifting.  Geophysical Research Letters, 46(3), 1338–1347. doi: 10.1029/2018GL080387. (More Info, Animation and Downloads)
  • Rubey, M.,  Brune, S., Heine, C., Davies, D.R., Williams, S.E., and Müller, R.D. (2017): Global patterns in Earth’s dynamic topography since the Jurassic: the role of subducted slabs:  Solid Earth, 8, 899-919, doi: (Link to Paper

Tsunamis and submarine landslides

  • Brune, S.; Babeyko, A. Y.; Ladage, S.; Sobolev, S. V. (2010): Landslide tsunami hazard in the Indonesian Sunda Arc. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 10:3, 589-604, doi:10.5194/nhess-10-589-2010. (Link to Paper
  • Brune, S.; Ladage, S.; Babeyko, A. Y.; Müller, C.; Kopp, H.; Sobolev, S. V. (2009): Submarine landslides at the eastern Sunda margin: observations and tsunami impact assessment. Natural Hazards, 54, 2, 547-562, doi:10.1007/s11069-009-9487-8. (Link to Paper



Since 12/2019: Head of Geodynamic Modelling Section (GFZ Potsdam)

Since 11/2019: Privatdozent (University of Potsdam)

07/2019: Habilitation in Geosciences (University of Potsdam)

06/2016 - 05/2021: Helmholtz Young Investigators Group Leader (GFZ Potsdam)

06/2013 - 05/2016: Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow (2013-2015: EarthByte Group, Sydney, Australia; 2015-2016: Geodynamic Modelling Section, GFZ Potsdam)

10/2009 - 05/2013: PostDoc, Geodynamic Modelling Section (GFZ Potsdam)

04/2007 - 06/2007: Visiting scientist, Hydrodynamic Modelling Group (Texas A&M University, USA)

02/2006 - 09/2009: PhD candidate, Geodynamic Modelling Section (GFZ Potsdam)

10/1999 - 01/2006: Student of Physics, Diploma thesis in Biophysics, Humboldt University, Berlin (2002-2003: Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France)



2020: How did the asymmetric conjugate continental margins of the South China Sea form? – Quantitative insights from high-resolution numerical modeling. Funding institution: Chinese Scientific Council, Role: Co-PI

2019-2022: The seismic cycle of great earthquakes: Numerical multi-scale modelling of transients and tipping points. Funding institution: Geo.X, Role: PI

2019-2021: Machine learning of geological structures in 3-D seismic reflection data and numerical models. Funding institution: Geo.X, Role: PI

2019-2020: Structures and Dynamics of Continental Rift Systems. Funding institution: HLRN, Role: PI

2019: Regional-scale CO2 degassing in the Eger rift, Czech Republic. Funding institution: GFZ, Role: PI

2019: Rheology of Continental Rifting, Funding institution: TWAS-DFG, Role: Co-PI

2018-2020: Plume-induced subduction initiation: Insights from the south-western margin of the Caribbean, Funding institution: DFG, Role: PI

2018-2021:  How the complexity of continental breakup controls ocean circulation, Funding institution: ARC, Role: Co-PI

2017-2018:  Linking continental breakup dynamics to climate changes, Funding institution: DAAD, Role: PI

2016-2021:  CRYSTALS (Continental Rift Dynamics Across the Scales), Funding institution: Helmholtz Association, Role: PI

2013-2016: GLORY (Global Tectonics with Realistic Rheology), Funding institution: European Union, Role: PI

2009-2013:  SAMPLE (South Atlantic Margin Processes and Links with onshore Evolution)

2006-2009: GITEWS (German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System)


2018: Research Grant - Basic Module of German Research Foundation (DFG)

2016: Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Grant (German Academic Exchange Service - DAAD)

2015: Helmholtz Young Investigators Grant (Helmholtz Association)

2013: Marie Curie Grant (European Research Executive Agency)

2013: GFZ PostDoc Award (Annual PostDoc Price at GFZ Potsdam).

2010: DGG Young Scientist Poster Award (Poster Price of the Annual Meeting of the German Geophysical Society)


Selected Media Pieces:

06/2020: Sueddeutsche Zeitung - In Ostafrika könnte ein neuer Ozean entstehen

04/2019: WDR 5 "Quarks Wissenschaft und mehr" - German radio interview about the temperature of Earth's core (starting at 16 min 30s) 

11/2017: Bild der Wissenschaft - Wenn Kontinente brechen, wird`s warm

11/2017: Cosmos - Continent break-up fuelled early climate change

12/2016: EARTH Magazine - Why tectonic plates lurch forward when they break

07/2016: Spektrum der Wissenschaft - Kontinente zerreißen wie Brotteig  

03/2014: - Tectonic Puzzle: Why West Africa Didn't Follow South America

03/2014: Spiegel Online - Die unmögliche Nase Südamerikas

03/2014: Süddeutsche Zeitung - Die Welt, die niemals war

03/2014: Nature World News - Sahara Desert Could Have Been an Ocean.


Invited Conference Presentations:

05/2020: Brune, S, Glerum, A., Neuharth, D., Heine, C.: "Numerical modeling of continental microplate dynamics: São Paulo Plateau (South Atlantic) and Victoria (East Africa)" Transform margins workshop 2, Smolenice, Slovakia

10/2019: Brune, S. "Modelling continental rift dynamics across the scales" IMAGinING RIFTING Workshop II, Biarritz, France

04/2019: Brune, S.; Williams, S., Wong, K.; Mason, E.; Edmonds, M.; Zahirovic, S.; East, M.; Müller, D. "CO₂ Degassing at Continental Rifts and other Tectonic Settings: Towards Quantifying Plate Tectonic Control on Long-term Climate Change" EGU General Assembly, Vienna

04/2018: Brune, S. “Potential links between continental rifting, CO2 degassing and climate change through time” Deep Carbon Observatory Workshop, Cambridge, UK

12/2017: Brune, S. "Thermomechanical Controls on the Success and Failure of Continental Rift Systems" AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco

08/2017: Brune, S., S. Williams, G. Corti, R.D. Müller, G. Ranalli "Continental Rifting: From Plate Boundary Processes to Global Geodynamics" Invited Keynote, NetherMod - the XV International Workshop on Numerical Modelling of Mantle and Lithosphere Dynamics, Putten, Netherlands

04/2017: Brune, S., S. Williams, N. Butterworth, R.D. Müller "Abrupt plate acceleration during rifted margin formation: Cause and effect" EGU General Assembly, Vienna

12/2016: Brune, S. "Abrupt plate acceleration through oblique rifting: Geodynamic aspects of Gulf of California evolution." AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco

05/2016: Brune, S.: "Dynamics of Active Rifts and Rifted Margins: Insights from Numerical Experiments." 78th EAGE Conference, Vienna, Austria

03/2016: Brune, S. "Numerical Modelling of Rift Dynamics: Linking Observations on Fault, Basin and Global Scale." Invited Keynote. RIFTS III Conference at the Geological Society of London

04/2015: Brune, S. "Crustal Rheology and Rifted Margin Architecture: Comparing Iberia-Newfoundland, Central South Atlantic, and South China Sea." EGU General Assembly, Vienna

06/2010: Brune, S. "Landslide generated tsunamis and methods for early warning." CBC Workshop on Tsunami Modelling, Oslo


Editorial responsibilities:

since 2018: Associate Editor, Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth  

2016: Guest Editor for Tectonophysics Special Volume “Tectonics of Oblique Plate Boundary Systems



2019/20: University of Potsdam, Topic: “Geothermics and Geodynamics: Observations, models, and processes between drill core and global scale" (MGEW34/GEW-OBS11, 4 SWS) with Sven Fuchs, Anne Glerum, and Ben Norden.

2018/19: University of Potsdam, Topic: “Modelling structure and dynamics of the lithosphere” (MGEW34/GEW-OBS11, 4 SWS) with Judith Bott and Anne Glerum.

2018: University of Potsdam, Topic: “Introduction to Geodynamic Modelling” (Block course in graduate school StRATEGy, 2 SWS) with Anne Glerum.

2018: University of Oslo, Guest lectures (2 units) in the DEEP school postgraduate course “Solid Earth – Fluid Earth interactions” organized by Carmen Gaina.

2016 & 2017: Bochum University, Guest lectures (2 units per year) within the course “Tectonics and basin analysis for hydrocarbon exploration: from plate to prospect scale” of Christian Heine.

2016 & 2017: Potsdam University, Guest lectures (4 units per year) within the course “Advanced Geodynamics” of Stephan Sobolev and Michael Riedel.

2015 & 2016: Potsdam University, Regular lectures (8 units per year) within the courses “Geological 3D Modelling” and “Special Topics in Basin Analysis” with Maria Mutti, Judith Sippel and Mauro Cacace.

2013 – 2015: Sydney University, Regular lectures (8 units per year) within the course „Geophysical Methods” with Dietmar Müller, Patrice Rey, Simon Williams, Christian Heine, Nicolas Flament.


Conference organisation:

2020: Convener, "Advances in the extensional tectonics of continental margins", Symposium at the 36th International Geological Congress (IGC), 2-8 March, Delhi, India

2019: Co-Convener, "Observations and models of continental rifts, pull-apart basins, backarc basins, and rifted margins", AGU Fall Meeting

2019: Convener, "Continental Rift Evolution: Tectonics, Topography, Transients", EGU General Assembly, Vienna

2018: Co-Organizer, "Interplay of heatflow, subsidence and continental break-up: a case study workshop" Geological Society, Burlington House, London

2017: Convener, "Continental Rifts and Passive Margins: Geology, Geophysics, Geodynamics", AGU Fall Meeting

2016: Co-Convener, "Origin, architecture, and dynamics of extensional basins", AGU Fall Meeting

2016: Co-Convener, “Rifted basins and margins: architecture and evolution“, 35th IGC, Capetown

2015: Convener, “Rifts and Passive Margins: Tectonics, Dynamics, Processes“, AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco

2015: Co-Convener, “Plate tectonics and plate boundary deformation: Observations and models on global, regional and basin scales”, GeoBerlin

2014: Convener, “Oblique Deformation: The 3D Challenge“, AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco

2012: Co-Convener, “ Plate kinematics, mantle convection, paleogeography and sea level“, EGU General Assembly, Vienna