Earth System Science in Münster

The working group Earth System Science at the Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster focusses on the question:

Why do the climate system and the global carbon cycle respond differently to astronomical Milankovitch forcing under different boundary conditions?

The term “boundary conditions” can refer to any element in the Earth’s system that has been significantly different in the geologic past. For ex­amp­le, a pla­net with uni­po­lar ice-sheets, a pla­net wi­thout 8000 m high Hi­ma­la­y­an moun­ta­ins, a pla­net with a wide-open In­do­ne­si­an Through­flow, or a pla­net with more than 500 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere.

To answer the above question, we stu­dy Earth’s history throughout the geo­lo­gi­cal Eras, with a focus on the Late De­vo­ni­an (~375 Ma), the Eo­ce­ne (~40 Ma), and the Miocene-to-recent (last 23 Myr). None of the­se time sli­ces are per­fect ana­lo­gues for the An­thro­po­ce­ne, yet they are worth stu­dy­ing as they pro­vi­de va­luable in­sights into the ma­chine­ry of the cli­ma­te sys­tem un­der boun­da­ry con­di­ti­ons much un­li­ke to­day’s.

Ob­vious­ly, the age of the sedi­ment(ary rock) un­der in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on is very dif­fe­rent bet­ween the geological Eras, but our work al­ways sha­res a com­mon ob­jec­tive: Integrating the paleoclimate and geochronology aspects of the sedimentary archives to better constrain how much and how fast our planet has been changing. 

To do so, we go on fieldwork (on outcrops as well as sea-going expeditions), we carry out laboratory measurements (iso­to­pic, ele­men­tal and geo­phy­si­cal pro­xies), and we use nu­me­ri­cal approaches for data analysis and visualization.

© Nina Papadomanolaki

cGENIE modelling (Alexander von Humboldt postdoc stipendium 2023 - 2025)

In her postdoc, Nina Papadomanolaki aims at constraining the role of orbitally-driven changes in terrestrial weathering during past intervals of climate change. The influence of temperature-dependent weathering on CO2 drawdown and nutrient supply to the ocean (and thus, marine organic carbon burial) will be tested using the cGENIE Earth system model of intermediate complexity. Three intervals of past climate change and ocean deoxygenation will be targeted: the Devonian Upper Kellwasser event, the Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event 2, and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum of the Paleogene.

© Rohit Samant

Australian Hydroclimate
(DFG Project: 2023 -2026)

In his PhD, Rohit Samant aims to reconstruct the temporal and spatial evolution of the Australian climate over the last 23 Myr by applying the Dynamic Time Warping technique and natural gamma radiation data from industrial and scientific sites. This project will improve the quality, temporal range, and spatial coverage of offshore hydroclimate records for the Australian continent and identify links between Australian and global climate evolution.

© Jakob Quabeck

SCATTER                                                                                                                                                                                                             (DFG and FWO project: 2024 - 2027)

In his PhD, Jakob Quabeck aims at investigating a potential systematic link between the flux of cosmic material and Earth's orbital eccentricity throughout the Phanerozoic. Subject of this study are cyclic Late Devonian and Early Carboniferous sequences in the Ardennes and the Rhenish Massif. These sediments were deposited in a high CO2 setting and enable the reconstruction of paleoclimatic shifts in relation to cyclic changes in insolation. Furthermore, Pleistocene loess sediments will be targeted for cyclostratigraphic and paleoceanographic analysis.

© Jing Lyu

Tasman Leakage
(DFG project: 2021 - 2024)

In her PhD, Jing Lyu aims at pinpointing the onset of Tasman Leakage in geologic time. Tasman Leakage is a pathway of interocean exchange between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. To date, its variability in response to climatic (north-south migration of climate belts) as well as to tectonic processes (northward movement of the Australian continent) remains unknown. Jing’s work on ODP Sites 752 and 754 (Broken Ridge) is designed to change this.

© Nina Wichern

(DFG project: 2021 - 2024)

In her PhD, Nina Wichern aims at understanding the cyclicity in Late Devonian sedimentary sequences in the Rhenish Massif, first to refine the geological time scale and second to provide paleoclimate insights for this high-CO2 world. Three episodes of black shale deposition are studied: The Kellwasser events at the Winsenberg roadcut near Diemelsee-Adorf; the Annulata and Dasberg crises at the Effenberg Quarry; and the Hangenberg crisis at the Borkewehr section.



The study of astronomical climate forcing and the application of cyclostratigraphy have experienced a spectacular growth over the last decades. Indeed, cyclostratigraphy is a powerful tool to understand paleoclimate change, as well as to read geologic time in sedimentary sequences. Therewith, cyclostratigraphy exists at the intersection between astronomy, paleoclimatology and stratigraphy.

Get to know more about cyclostratigraphy on the open-access learning platform

© William Crawford, IODP/TAMU


Paleoceanography is the study of ancient oceans and their interactions with the Earth's climate system. By examining sediment cores from the ocean floor, paleoceanographers can reconstruct past climate conditions, ocean circulation patterns, and biogeochemical cycles. This field of study provides valuable insights into how the ocean has responded to past climate changes and how it may respond to future ones.

The Earth System Science working group in Münster specializes in analyzing ocean sediment cores from all ocean basins, with a particular focus on the Indian Ocean and the inter-ocean connections between the Indian and the Pacific Ocean. Specifically, we study the Indonesian Throughflow in the north and the Tasman Gateway in the south of Australia. By examining sediment cores from these regions, we can better understand the mechanisms behind ocean circulation patterns and their effects on climate. Our research contributes to a broader understanding of the Earth's past, present, and future ocean systems.