Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry | BTM / Home
Max Planck Society
Max Planck Institut for Biogeochemistry

Biospheric Theory and Modelling Group

Our research deals with Earth system science, focussing on the role of the biosphere, land-atmosphere interactions, global climate change, and renewable energy.

Our approach focuses on energy conversions, which is motivated by the fundamental importance of the second law of thermodynamics, and on a systems perspective that jointly describes processes as well as their interaction with the conditions at the boundary of the system.

Our applications. We apply this approach to develop simple, physically-based models in combination with numerical model simulations and the analysis of observations to address a range of scientific topics.

>> More on our motivation and on our research topics

Energy conversions within the Earth system. Biotic activity and geochemical cycling is embedded in a sequence of energy conversions (solid arrows) that are constrained by thermodynamics and that evolve to their limits. Various feedbacks (dashed arrows) alter these limits, resulting in evolutionary dynamics at different time scales that govern the behavior of the whole Earth system. Figure from Frank et al. 2017.


Here are a few examples of publications representative of our work. A full list of publications (submitted and published) can be found here.

On thermodynamics of the Earth system:

A Kleidon, 2010. Life, hierarchy, and the thermodynamic machinery of planet Earth. Physics of Life Reviews, 7, 424-460.

Kleidon, A. (2012). How does the Earth system generate and maintain thermodynamic disequilibrium and what does it imply for the future of the planet? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London - Series A: Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences, 370(1962), 1012-1040. doi:10.1098/rsta.2011.0316.

Kleidon, A., Renner, M. (2013). Thermodynamic limits of hydrologic cycling within the Earth system: concepts, estimates and implications. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 17(7), 2873-2892. doi:10.5194/hess-17-2873-2013.

Kleidon, A. (2016). Thermodynamic Foundations of the Earth System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Frank, A., Kleidon, A., Alberti, M. (2017). Earth as a hybrid planet: the Anthropocene in an evolutionary astrobiological context. Anthropocene, 19, 13-21. doi:10.1016/j.ancene.2017.08.002.

On land-atmosphere interactions:

Kleidon, A., Renner, M., Porada, P. (2014). Estimates of the climatological land surface energy and water balance derived from maximum convective power. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 18, 2201-2218. doi:10.5194/hess-18-2201-2014.

Kleidon, A., Renner, M. (2018). Diurnal land surface energy balance partitioning estimated from the thermodynamic limit of a cold heat engine. Earth System Dynamics, 9(3), 1127-1140. doi:10.5194/esd-9-1127-2018.

Renner, M., Brenner, C., Mallick, K., Wizemann, H.-D., Conte, L., Trebs, I., Wei, J., Wulfmeyer, V., Schulz, K., Kleidon, A. (2019). Using phase lags to evaluate model biases in simulating the diurnal cycle of evapotranspiration. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 23(1), 515-535. doi:10.5194/hess-23-515-2019.

On climate change:

Kleidon, A., Renner, M. (2013). A simple explanation for the sensitivity of the hydrologic cycle to surface temperature and solar radiation and its implications for global climate change. Earth System Dynamics, 4, 455-465. doi:10.5194/esd-4-455-2013.

Kleidon, A., Renner, M. (2017). An explanation for the different climate sensitivities of land and ocean surfaces based on the diurnal cycle. Earth System Dynamics, 8(3), 849-864. doi:10.5194/esd-8-849-2017.

On renewable energy in the Earth system:

Kleidon, A., Miller, L., Gans, F. (2016). Physical limits of solar energy conversion in the Earth system. | Topics in Current Chemistry, 371, 1-22. doi:10.1007/128_2015_637.

Miller, L., Kleidon, A. (2016). Wind speed reductions by large-scale wind turbine deployments lower turbine efficiencies and set low generation limits. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.USA, 113(48), 13570-13575. doi:10.1073/pnas.1602253113.

Germer, S., Kleidon, A. (2019). Have wind turbines in Germany generated electricity as would be expected from the prevailing wind conditions in 2000-2014? PLoS One, 14(2): e0211028. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0211028.


Group leader:

Axel Kleidon, Leader of the biospheric theory and modelling group.


Maik Renner, DFG-CAOS research unit, project "Thermodynamics and soil-vegetation-atmosphere transfer processes".

PhD Students:

Annu Panwar, working on land-atmosphere interactions and evapotranspiration.

Master Students/Interns/Visitors/Collaborators:

  • Luigi Conte, working on thermodynamics and surface energy balance partitioning in Amazonia.
  • Muye Du, working on hydrologic variability in China (visiting from Fubao Sun's group at the Chinese Academy of Sciences).
  • Sonja Germer, works on wind energy in Germany.

>> More on our group


Dr. Axel Kleidon
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Hans-Knoell-Str. 10
07745 Jena
Ph: +49 (0)3641 57-6217
E-mail: axel.kleidon AT bgc-jena DOT mpg DOT de

Directions | Disclaimer | Data Protection | Contact | Internal | Webmail | Local weather | PRINT | © 2011-2019 Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry