IMPRS-gBGC course 'Biogeochemical Cycles in the Earth System - an Overview'


1.  General information

Date: Cancelled, looking into a webinar solution
Location: B0.002, MPI for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Teacher: Martin Heimann
Category: Courses related to BGC cycles - Overview course
0.2 CP per course day

Goal of the module is an overview over the global Earth System, its major components (Atmosphere, ocean, land surfaces and cryosphere), their interactions through exchanges of energy, momentum and materials, and the major physical, chemical and biological processes controlling these exchanges. A special emphasis is given to the role of the global cycles of biogeochemical elements and their modifications in the context of global change.


2.  Prerequisites

Please indicate in the registration form if you can bring a laptop to the course (for the practical part). You will need the Wolfram Mathematica CDF Player and a web browser. Alternatively, you need on your laptop a working version of Python 3 accessible through Jupyter notebooks. An installable version of the Mathematica CDF Player for Windows and for MacOS is available on the OwnCloud course website (see below). If you do not have a laptop available, we can lend you one if we know early enough.


3.  Course materials

will be posted always after the lectures online.


4.  Preliminary outline

L = Lecture, D = Demonstration, G = Group work

Date & timeTypeTopic
March 16  
  • Introduction - Overview of Earth System
  • Components and processes in the Earth System (atmosphere, ocean, land surfaces, water cycle)
  • Fundamental scientific questions
  • Energy balance
13:00-16:00L + G
  • Exercises with simple energy balance model
  • Feedback calculus
  • Daisy-world
  • Bifurcations and chaos
  • Introduction to BGC modeling
March 24 
  • Carbon cycle
  • Ocean carbon cycle
  • Land carbon cycle
13:00-15:00L + G
  • Modeling biogeochemical cycles - simple box models
  • Exercises with simple carbon cycle model
March 25  
  • Oxygen cycle
  • Isotopes of carbon and oxygen (13C, radiocarbon, 18O, 17O)
  • Comprehensive carbon cycle modelling
  • Feedbacks between carbon cycle and climate
14:00-16:00L + G
  • Exercises with simple coupled global carbon cycle - climate model
March 26  
  • Cycle of methane
  • Elementary atmospheric chemistry
  • Earth System History
  • How do we know what climate was like in the past?
  • Co-evolution of climate and atmosphere — Faint young sun paradox
  • Snowball earth and the C-rock cycle
  • Last 50 million years (descent into ice age)
  • Glacial-interglacial cycles
  • Holocene climate variations
March 27  
  • Cycles of essential nutrients: N, S, P
13:00-16:00L + G
  • Comprehensive Earth System models
  • Global change
  • Climate Engineering
April 09  
13:00-14:30 * Presentation and discussion of the Earth System science questions1

1 During the course a few Earth System science questions will be posed, which the participants are asked to work on in groups during the the course. Each group will present the context of the question, the approach in trying to answer it and the results during the session on a separate day (tba). More details will be announced in the course.


5.  Literature

  • Wallace and Hobbs, Atmospheric Science, Elsevier Academic Press, International Geophysics Series, v92, 2002, ISBN: 0-12-732950-1, 483pp.
  • Schlesinger: Biogeochemistry - An analysis of global change, Elsevier Academic Press, 1997, ISBN: 978-0-12-625155-5, 588pp.
  • Jacobson, Charlson, Rhode and Orians: Earth System Science, Elsevier Academic Press, International Geophysics Series vol. 72, 2000, ISBN: 978-0-12-379370-6, 527pp.

6.  Feedback

The feedback of the participants is posted here. Statistics and statements should not be taken as an exhaustive or exclusive


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