Research Group

Hydrology-Biosphere-Climate Interactions

This group is co-funded by the German Research Foundation’s Emmy Noether program.



The understanding of the exchange of water, energy and carbon between the land surface and the atmosphere is the keystone to many of the fundamental challenges facing humanity.


We strive to improve the physical understanding of the Hydrology-Biosphere-Climate system through land surface modelling in combination with the analysis of Earth observations at continental-to-global scale.


The group’s research focuses on the interface of soil, vegetation, and atmosphere. The exchange and feedback processes acting there can affect weather and climate, food production, water availability, and hence economy and society.

In particular, our research is directed to contribute to
(1) better understanding of land-atmosphere coupling
Key examples: Denissen et al. 2022 & Li et al. 2022
(2) improved management of extreme events such as droughts and heat waves
Key examples: O et al. 2022 & Orth et al. 2022
(3) more accurate weather forecasts and climate projections
Key examples: O et al. 2020 & Ruiz-Vásquez et al. 2022


Ekaterina Bogdanovich
Doctoral Researcher
  • +49 3641 57-6262
MPG Publications
Kelley De Polt
Doctoral Researcher
  • +49 3641 57-6291
MPG PublicationsTwitter
Wantong Li
MPG PublicationsResearchgate
Sinikka Jasmin Paulus
Doctoral Researcher
  • +49 3641 57-6232
University of Freiburg - Herderbau Room 03053
MPG Publications
Melissa Ruiz-Vásquez
Doctoral Researcher
MPG Publications
Xin Yu
Doctoral Researcher
  • +49 3641 57-8913
ITP B3.26
MPG Publications
Chunhui Zhan
Doctoral Researcher
  • +49 3641 57-8910
ITP B3.26
MPG Publications

List of former group members


Key Publications

Denissen, J.M.C., A.J. Teuling, A.J. Pitman, S. Koirala, M. Migliavacca, W. Li, M. Reichstein, A.J. Winkler, C. Zhan, and R. Orth (2022)
Widespread shift from ecosystem energy to water limitation with climate change
Nature Climate Change, 12, 677–684, doi: 10.1038/s41558-022-01403-8

Li, W., M. Migliavacca, M. Forkel, J.M.C. Denissen, M. Reichstein, H. Yang, G. Duveiller, U. Weber, and R. Orth (2022)
Widespread increasing vegetation sensitivity to soil moisture
Nature Communications, 3959, doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-31667-9

O, S., A. Bastos, M. Reichstein, W. Li, J.M.C. Denissen, H. Graefen, and R. Orth (2022)
The role of climate and vegetation in regulating drought-heat extremes
J. Climate, 35(17), 5677–5685, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-21-0675.1

Ruiz-Vásquez, M., S. O, A. Brenning, R.D. Koster, G. Balsamo, U. Weber, G. Arduini, A. Bastos, M. Reichstein, and R. Orth (2022)
Exploring the relationship between temperature forecast errors and Earth system variables
Earth Syst. Dynam., 13, 1451–1471, doi: 10.5194/esd-13-1451-2022

O, S. and R. Orth (2021)
Global soil moisture data derived through machine learning trained with in-situ measurements
Sci. Data, 8, 170, doi: 10.1038/s41597-021-00964-1 [Download Dataset]

O, S., E. Dutra, and R. Orth (2020)
Robustness of process-based versus data-driven modelling in changing climatic conditions
J. Hydrometeorol., 21(9), 1929–1944, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-20-0072.1

Full list of publications

Current Research


De Polt, K., P.J. Ward, M. de Ruiter, E. Bogdanovich, M. Reichstein, D. Frank, and R. Orth
Quantifying impact-relevant heatwave durations
Env. Res. Lett., doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/acf05e

Hoek van Dijke, A.J., R. Orth, A.J. Teuling, M. Herold, M. Schlerf, M. Migliavacca, M. Machwitz, T.C. van Hateren, X. Yu, K. Mallick
Comparing forest and grassland drought responses  inferred from eddy covariance and Earth observation
Agr. For. Met., 341, 109635, doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2023.109635 (2023).

Li, W., M. Reichstein, S. O, C. May, G. Destouni, M. Migliavacca, B. Kraft, U. Weber, and R. Orth
Contrasting drought propagation into the terrestrial water cycle between dry and wet regions
Earth’s Future, 11, e2022EF003441, doi: 10.1029/2022EF003441 (2023).

Li, W., J. Pacheco-Labrador, M. Migliavacca, D. Miralles, A.J. Hoek van Dijke, M. Reichstein, M. Forkel, W. Zhang, C. Frankenberg, A. Panwar, Q. Zhang, U. Weber, P. Gentine, and R. Orth
Widespread and complex drought effects on vegetation physiology inferred from space

Nature Communications, 14, 4640, doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-40226-9 (2023).


Bogdanovich, E., A. Brenning, M. Reichstein, K. De Polt, L. Guenther, D. Frank, and R. Orth
Official heat warnings miss situations with a detectable societal heat response in European countries
ESS Open Archive, doi: 10.22541/essoar.168748486.67497399/v1

Denissen, J.M.C., A.J. Teuling, S. Koirala, M. Reichstein, G. Balsamo, M.M. Vogel, X. Yu, and R. Orth
Intensified future heat extremes linked with increasing ecosystem water limitation
EGUsphere, doi: 10.5194/egusphere-2023-1925

Khanal, P., A.J. Hoek Van Dijke, T. Schaffhauser, W. Li, S.J. Paulus, C. Zhan, and R. Orth
Relevance of near-surface soil moisture vs. terrestrial water storage for global vegetation functioning
EGUsphere, doi: 10.5194/egusphere-2023-770

Ruiz-Vásquez, M., S. O, G. Arduini, S. Boussetta, A. Brenning, A. Bastos, S. Koirala, G. Balsamo, M. Reichstein, and R. Orth
Impact of updating vegetation information on land surface model performance
ESS Open Archive, doi: 10.22541/essoar.168182273.38487150



BSc/MSc thesis and internship topics

  • How is the water cycle, specifically the partitioning of precipitation into runoff and evapotranspiration, affected by climate change?
  • What are the weather conditions associated with strong Google search interest in pollen and allergy?
  • Comparing ecosystem impacts of different types of drought; low surface soil moisture vs. low deep soil moisture vs. low precipitation vs. high vapor pressure deficit.
  • How important are soil moisture and vegetation for weather forecast accuracy in recent heat waves?

We are happy to welcome students in our group! If you are interested please send an email with your CV to

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