Max Planck Gesellschaft

Christoph Gerbig

Leader of the group Airborne trace gas measurements and mesoscale modelling (ATM)

room: A3.023
phone: +49 3641 57 6373
email: cgerbig(at)

Research interests | My work at MPI Biogeochemistry | Publications | CV

Research interests

  • My main interest is to make atmospheric measurements of trace gases relevant for our earth's climate, and to utilize these data in combination with transport models to learn about sources/sinks of those gases, most prominently of CO2. On the experimental side this involves high accuracy measurement of trace gases from airborne platforms, but also development and optimization of such instrumentation. On the theoretical side it involves development of analysis tools such as mesoscale tracer transport models coupled to surface flux models.

My work at MPI Biogeochemistry


One of the pillars of my research is the development and deployment of instrumentation for measurement of trace gases from airborne platforms at a high accuracy.

  • In-Situ continuous GHG measurements
My group has developed a fully autonomously operating system measuring CO2, CH4, CO, and H2O, for deployment onboard commercial airliners. The system uses components of a CRDS instrument by Picarro Inc. (Model G2401-m), repackaged into a frame designed to interface with the Airbus A340 and A330 aircraft. It is deployed within the IAGOS research infrastructure, but also in campaign mode onboard the German research aircraft HALO.
  • Flask Sampler
An automated flask sampling system designed to collect samples onboard research aircraft that can be analyzed for CO2, 13CO2, C18O2, CO, CH4, 13C-CH4, 2H-CH4, SF6, H2, N2O and the ratio O2/N2. This sampler is being deployed onboard the German research aircraft HALO.

Theory (Model development)

A number of modeling tools are in development in a continued collaboration with the Wofsy group at Harvard and with John Lin (formerly at Harvard, now at Waterloo). These tools are elements of a model-data fusion system designed to extract information from a variety of data streams, with special emphasis on airborne or ground based greenhouse gas gas measurements.

  • STILT (Stochastic Time Inverted Lagrangian Transport model):

A fast tool to retrieve the tracer adjoint (sensitivity of atmospheric tracer mixing ratio measured at receptor point with respect to upstream variations in surface fluxes), including turbulence. This is also used in forecast mode for flight planning purposes (examples).

  • VPRM (Vegetation Photosynthesis and Respiration Model):

A diagnostic biosphere model to compute fluxes consistent with fluxes observed by Eddy Covariance. VPRM is a light use efficency (LUE) model, and uses the MODIS EVI (enhanced vegetation index) and LSWI (land surface water index) as well as vegetation classification (e.g. Synmap). Four parameters are optimized against measurements for each vegetation type. This work is in collaboration with Steve Wofsy at Harvard.

  • CarboScope-Regional:

An regional inversion framework to assimilate information from multiple data streams for retrieving regional fluxes. It uses STILT footprints, prior fluxes from VPRM and others, gridded emission inventories, and ocean fluxes to derive optimized biosphere-atmosphere flux estimates from atmospheric observations such as from ICOS. To account for lateral boundary conditions, it is used in sequence with the CarboScope system on a global scale.

  • WRF-GHG (Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled to GHG source models):

Coupling of WRF-Chem with models for biospheric CO2 fluxes (VPRM), natural fluxes for CH4, and anthropogenic fluxes for CH4, CO2, and CO. A fully scalable modelling approach ranging from mesoscales at 1 km to 20 km or coarser. This is also used in forecasting mode to assist flight planning during campaigns.

  • WRF-STILT (Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled to STILT):

Consistent coupling of WRF transport to the STILT model, by using consistent mass fluxes (advective and convective) as well as consistent turbulence parameters. This work was done in collaboration with Thomas Nehrkorn and Janusz Eluskiewicz at AER.

Selected peer-reviewed publications:

Filges, A., Gerbig, C., Chen, H., Franke, H., Klaus, C., Jordan, A. (2015). The IAGOS-core greenhouse gas package: a measurement system for continuous airborne observations of CO2, CH4, H2O and CO. Tellus B 67. doi:10.3402/tellusb.v67.27989
Beck, V., Gerbig, C., Koch, T., Bela, M.M., Longo, K.M., Freitas, S.R., Kaplan, J.O., Prigent, C., Bergamaschi, P., Heimann, M. (2013). WRF-Chem simulations in the Amazon region during wet and dry season transitions: evaluation of methane models and wetland inundation maps. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 13, 7961–7982. doi:10.5194/acp-13-7961-2013
Kountouris, P., Gerbig, C., Rödenbeck, C., Karstens, U., Koch, T.F., Heimann, M. (2018). Atmospheric CO<sub>2</sub> inversions on the mesoscale using data-driven prior uncertainties: quantification of the European terrestrial CO<sub>2</sub> fluxes. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 18, 3047–3064. doi:10.5194/acp-18-3047-2018

Follow the link to my ResearcherID page for a full list of publications.

Professional background

since 08/2004 Leader of the Airborne Trace Gas Measurements and Mesoscale Modeling (ATM) Group at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, DE
01/1999-07/2004 Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Research Associate, Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.
1997-1998 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute of Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere, Forschungszentrum Juelich (Germany).
1993-1997 PhD-student and Graduate Research Assistant, Institute of Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere, Forschungszentrum Juelich (Germany).
1992-1993 Studies of Physics at University of Wuppertal, Germany.
1987-1992 Studies of Physics at University RWTH Aachen, Germany.
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