Biogeochemical Cycles in the Earth System - an Overview

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.


1.  Overview

Date: November 16-17, 23-25, and December 14, 2016
Location: MPI for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Room B0.002 or B0.004
Course teacher: Martin Heimann


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 Player and a web browser. If you do not have a laptop available, we can lend you one if we know early enough.


3.  Preliminary outline

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

Nov. 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
Nov. 17
  • Carbon cycle
  • Ocean carbon cycle
  • Land carbon cycle
 13:00-16:00 (with possible Colloquium break 14:00-15:00)L + G
  • Modeling biogeochemical cycles - simple box models
  • Exercises with simple carbon cycle model
Nov. 23
  • Oxygen cycle
  • Isotopes of carbon and oxygen (13C, radiocarbon, 18O, 17O)
  • Comprehensive carbon cycle modelling
  • Feedbacks between carbon cycle and climate
 13:00-16:00L + G
  • Exercises with simple coupled global carbon cycle - climate model
Nov. 24
  • Cycle of methane
  • Elementary atmospheric chemistry
 13:00-16:00 (with possible Colloquium break 14:00-15:00)L
  • 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
Nov. 25
  • Cycles of essential nutrients: N, S, P
 13:00-17:00L + G
  • Comprehensive Earth System models
  • Global change
Dec 14
 14:00-17:00 * Presentation and discussion of the Earth System science questions1

1 At the beginning of the course a few Earth System science questions will be posed, which the participants are asked to work on in groups during the two weeks of the course. Each group will present their approach and results during the session on Dec 14, 2016. More details will be announced in the course.


4.  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.

5.  Course material

Material of Martin Heimann

Extra links


6.  Feedback

This is the feedback of 10 (out of 15) participants of the course. Please do not take statistics and statements as an exhaustive or exclusive list.

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