Research Questions of the Earth System Research Partnership

The Partnership has identified a set of questions which guide its research strategy to insure that the resources of the institutes are utilized in an optimal way for furthering our understandig of the Earth system:

1) How is the Earth system organised?

  • Systems analysis of our global environment
  • Feedbacks and teleconnections
  • Bifurcations, non-linear behaviour, abrupt changes, critical thresholds
  • Biosphere-climate interactions
  • The role of biodiversity
  • Fluxes of energy, matter and information in the Earth system
  • Short- and long-term interactions between the solid Earth, the ocean and the atmosphere

2) Which processes regulate the distribution and availability of water?

  • Interactions between aerosols, clouds and the water cycle
  • Climate and the water cycle in future scenarios

3) Which paths lead to useful models of the Earth system?

  • Theoretical foundations for new model approaches
  • A spectrum of models of varying complexity
  • Modular structures in Earth system models

4) How can Earth system models and their components be evaluated?

  • Observational strategies, especially involving long-term observations
  • Palaeo-science
  • Data assimilation

5) Which regions and components are particularly sensitive to global change?

  • What role do the tropics play in the Earth system?
  • The role of the rapid socio-economic development in the tropical regions (megacities)
  • How stable are the boreal and arctic zones?
  • The oxidation capacity of the atmosphere
  • Atmospheric circulation dynamics, monsoons and the hydrological cycle
  • The thermohaline circulation and deep water formation in the North Atlantic
  • The opening and closing of ocean passages.
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