Research

The main areas of research of the "Geomorphology and Environmental Systems" research group lie on mountain permafrost distribution and dynamics, sediment connectivity, late- and postglacial landscape evolution, natural hazards, and global environmental change. All information on currently running and completed research projects as well as the corresponding contact persons can be found here.

Current research projects investigate slope (in)stability, periglacial (permafrost) processes and sediment budgets and dynamics in mountain systems, as well as interdisciplinary research in the fields of natural hazards and disaster management. 

The application of modern field and laboratory methods such as geomorphological mapping, geophysical techniques, hydrogeochemical analyses, absolute age dating, and morphometric DEM analysis are complemented by satellite and UAV-based analyses.

Running Research:

  • HyPerm - Spatial occurrence and hydrological significance of Andean permafrost, Agua Negra, Argentina. Project start: 08/2021 (funded by DFG)
  • Ahr valley, Germany - the flood of July 2021
  • EifelfloodS - A GFZ HART and Uni Potsdam NatRisk Initiative. Project start: 2021
  • COVIDemX3 - Dementia and COVID-19 in New Zealand, Chile, and Germany: Cross-country learning for resilience in health care systems. Project start: 2020 (funded by DFG)
  • EarthShape - Earth Surface Shaping by Biota, A German-Chilean Research Initiative. With contributions in the two geomorphological sub-projects "Sediment storage & Connectivity" and "Bio-Geomorphology". Project start: 02/2016 (funded by DFG)

A short description on the running projects can be found below...

Completed Projects:

  • Postglacial fan evolution in the Upper Rhone Valley, Switzerland - gradual or catastrophic? (PhD project Dr. Anna Schoch-Baumann)
  • PermArg - Rock glacier permafrost in the Central Andes of Argentina: regional distribution – ice content – hydrological significance.  Project start: 11/2015 (funded by DFG)
  • Atlas VR” - knowledge management for Disaster Risk Management. Developing an atlas of vulnerability and resilience.
  • MOREXPERT - Monitoring potential hazardous rock walls and slopes in mountain regions - development of an expert system and adaptation strategies (COMET - K1: Centre for Climate Change Adaption Technologies)
  • Visualisation of landforms and geomorphic process domains using regional data sets - creating a digital geomorphological map of the European Alps (GIScience Doctoral College - DK 1, funded by FWF)
  • SourceSink - Quantifying Late and Postglacial sediment fuxes and storage in nested alpine catchments (ESF - Topo Europe Programme, funded by FWF, 2008-2011)
  • SedyMONT - Sediment budgets of glacier forefields (Pasterze & Obersulzbachkees, Hohe Tauern, Austria) (ESF - Topo Europe Programme, funded by FWF, 2008-2011)
  • PermAfrost - Permafrost-Glacier Interaction - Process Understanding of Permafrost Reformation and Degradation (funded by Austrian Academy of Science, 2010-2012)
  • SCALA - Scales and Hierarchies in Landform Classification (Prof. Dr. Thomas Blaschke, University of Salzburg)
  • CLIMSLIDE - Climate Change and Adaption of Critical Infrastructures and Lifelines for dynamic landslides (COMET - K1: Centre for Climate Change Adaption Technologies)
  • SIMA - Simulation of high velocity mass movements (COMET - K1: Centre for Climate Change Adaption Technologies)
  • SEDAG - Sediment cascades in alpine geosystems (DFG 2000-2008)
  • RMT - The use of Radiomagnetotellurics in Geomorphology (DFG 2004-2008)
The Agua Negra Catchment in the Andes (Argentina)
© Lothar Schrott/GIUB

HyPerm

In the HyPerm project we investigate the spatial distribution, geomorphological characteristics and hydrological significance of Andean permafrost in the Agua Negra catchment (Province San Juan, semiarid Andes of Argentina).

We hypothesize that a significant part of the (seasonally) thawing active layer of periglacial landforms contributes to the overall discharge and groundwater recharge. Our findings will significantly improve our knowledge regarding the occurrence and hydrological importance of permafrost in the semiarid Andes.

Ahr valley

Extreme rainfall from July 12 to 19, 2021 caused severe flooding in western Germany and adjacent regions in Belgium. The rain hit an area with high soil moisture and largely exhausted retention capacity of the ground. Widespread surface runoff and sometimes even sheet flow was the consequence. The water was channeled in the often very narrow valleys of the rivers Ahr, Erft, Rur, Kyll, Prüm, Wupper, Ruhr and their tributaries. Streams and rivers overtopped their banks almost everywhere. Massive erosion, scouring and undercutting of hillslopes, roads, railways, and buildings took place and trees fell.

It was the costliest natural disaster in Germany in recent history, with losses in the order of 33 billion euros (USD 40 billion) and 189 fatalities - more than in any other flood in Germany in the past 50 years. With our research we want to contribute to a better understanding and prediction of natural hazards to reduce vulnerability and prevent such disasters in the future.

Aftermath of the flood disaster of the Ahr in July 2021
© Tamara Köhler/GIUB
A drone flying over an eroded slope
© Tamara Köhler/GIUB

EifelfloodS

The severe flooding caused by extreme rainfall in mid July 2021 in several catchments in the Eifel region of western Germany not only caused rapidly rising water levels and violently flowing streams, it also mobilised huge amounts of woody vegetation, sediments and debris. This often led to blockages (clogging of rivers by the entrained material) and thus to non-linear flow dynamics, incision of slopes, lateral and deep erosion down to their headwater streams. Massive gravitational mass movements such as landslides and debris flows also occurred. 

To make better forecasts in the future with the help of a robust database and to effectively understand the development of recent events and damage processes, there is an urgent need for high-resolution remote sensing data and field work in the affected regions. 

COVIDemX3

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed gaps in our health systems worldwide and people living with dementia are amongst the most vulnerable in this emergency situation, but the pandemic has also spurred a lot of care and research innovations. Therefore, we want to take this opportunity to learn both from failures and from innovations by exploring why some countries are doing better than others and what we can learn from each other to increase health system resilience. This international collaboration addresses disaster-preparedness and disaster-resilience of health care systems and use the translational potential of cross-country learning to improve resilience of health care systems and responsiveness to the needs of people living with dementia and their families in times of crises and beyond.

A picture of a park and skyscrapers of Santiago de Chile
© Lothar Schrott/GIUB
A view of the chilean cordillera mountains
© Simon Terweh/GIUB

EarthShape

In the framework of the overarching EarthShape project, members of the research group are addressing geomorphological questions of biotic effects on sediment storage and connectivity in river catchments across timescales and, building on this, biogeomorphic feedbacks and their role for sediment erosion and connectivity along the north-to-south trending Coastal Cordillera mountains of Chile, South America.

The project will deepen our understanding of non-linear responses to external drivers in ecogeomorphological systems through a combination of geomorphological and biogeographical techniques. The major focus lies on sediment storage and residence time, which are central measures of catchment connectivity and thus of the sensitivity of sediment cascades in response to external environmental changes.

Research Interests

  • High mountain geomorphology
  • Sediment budgets
  • Mass movements (landslides)
  • Permafrost and periglacial processes
  • Natural hazards
  • Geophysical applications in geomorphology
  • GIS and digital terrain analyses

Research Regions

  • European Alps (Valais, Wetterstein, Dolomites, Hohe Tauern)
  • Rocky Mountains, Colorado Front Range/ USA
  • Andes of Argentina
  • Chilean Coastal Cordillera
  • German upland (Eifel)
  • Ahr valley (Germany)

Methods

classic & modern field methods (see Equipment)

  • geomorphological mapping
  • Remote-sensing (drone- and satellite-based)
  • geophysical surveying (GPR, ERT, SRT)
  • Drilling and soil sampling 

Recent publications

Bell, R., Kron, W., Thiebes, B. & Thieken, A.H. (2022): Die Flutkatastrophe im Juli 2021 in Deutschland. In: DKKV (Hrsg., 2022): Die Flutkatastrophe im Juli 2021 in Deutschland.Ein Jahr danach: Aufarbeitung und erste Lehren für die Zukunft. DKKV-Schriftenreihe Nr. 62, Bonn.

Thiebes, B., Winkhardt-Enz, R., Schrott, L., Rudloff, A. & Pickl, S. (2022): Frühwarnung und Alarmierung der Bevölkerung. In: Crisis Prevention, 2/2022, 72-74. 

Schoch-Baumann, A., Blöthe, J.H., Munack, H., Hornung, J., Codilean, A.T., Fülöp, R.-H., Wilcken, K. & Schrott, L.(2022): Postglacial outsize fan formation in the Upper Rhonevalley, Switzerland–gradual or catastrophic? Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 47(4), 1032-1053. doi: doi.org/10.1002/esp.5301

Halla, C., Blöthe, J.H., Tapia Baldis, C., Trombotto, D., Hilbich, C., Hauck, C., & Schrott, L. (2022): Ice content and interannual water storage changes of an active rock glacier in the dry Andes of Argentina. The Cryosphere, 15, 1187-1213. doi: doi.org/10.5194/tc-15-1187-2021

Laporte Uribe, F., Arteaga, O., Bruchhausen, W., Cheung, G., Cullum, S., Fuentes-García, A., Miranda Castillo, C., Kerse, N., Kirk, R., Muru-Lanning, M., Salinas Ríos, R.A., Schrott, L., Slachevsky, A. & Roes, M. (2021): Dementia and COVID-19 in Chile, New Zealand and Germany: A Research Agenda for Cross-Country Learning for Resilience in Health Care Systems. Sustainability, 13(18), 10247. doi: doi.org/10.3390/su131810247

Miesen, F., Dahl, S. O. & Schrott, L. (2021): Evidence of glacier-permafrost interactions associated with hydro-geomorphological processes and landforms at Snøhetta, Dovrefjell, Norway. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography 103(3), 273-302. doi: doi.org/10.1080/04353676.2021.1955539  

Terweh, S., Hassan, M.A., Mao, L., Schrott, L. & Hoffmann, T.O. (2021): Bio-climate affects Hillslope and Fluvial Sediment Grain size along the Chilean Coastal Cordillera. Geomorphology, 384. doi: doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2021.107700

Holst, C., Janßen, J., Schmitz, B., Blome, M., Dercks, M., Schoch-Baumann, A., Blöthe, J., Schrott, L., Kuhlmann, H., & Medic, T. (2021): Increasing Spatio-Temporal Resolution for Monitoring Alpine Solifluction Using Terrestrial Laser Scanners and 3D Vector Fields. Remote Sensing, 13(6), 1192. doi: doi.org/10.3390/rs13061192

Blöthe, J.H., Halla, C., Schwalbe, E., Bottegal, E., Trombotto Liaudat, D., & Schrott, L. (2021): Surface velocity fields of active rock glaciers and ice-debris complexes in the Central Andes of Argentina. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 46(2), 504-522. doi: doi.org/10.1002/esp.5042

Hoffmann, T. O., Baulig, Y., Fischer, H., & Blöthe, J. (2020): Scale breaks of suspended sediment rating in large rivers in Germany induces by organic matter. Earth Surface Dynamics, 8(3), 661-678. doi: doi.org/10.5194/esurf-8-661-2020

Hartmeyer, I., Keuschnig, M., Delleske, R., Krautblatter, M., Lang, A., Schrott, L., Prasicek, G. & Otto, J.C. (2020): A 6-year lidar survey reveals enhanced rockwall retreat and modified rockfall magnitudes/frequencies in deglaciating cirques. Earth Surface Dynamics, 8(3), 753-768. doi: doi.org/10.5194/esurf-8-753-2020

Hartmeyer, I., Delleske, R., Keuschnig, M., Krautblatter, M., Lang, A., Schrott, L., & Otto, J.C. (2020): Current glacier recession causes significant rockfall increase: the immediate paraglacial response of deglaciating cirque walls. Earth Surface Dynamics, 8(3), 729-751. doi: doi.org/10.5194/esurf-8-729-2020

Strozzi, T., Caduff, R., Jones, N., Barboux, C., Delaloye, R., Bodin, X., Kääb, A., Mätzler, E., & Schrott, L. (2020): Monitoring Rock Glacier Kinematics with Satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar. Remote Sensing, 12(3), 559. doi: doi.org/10.3390/rs12030559


Equipment

 Surface scanning and positioning:

Multicopter

Hardware:

  • DJI Phantom 4 RTK

Software:

  • Agisoft PhotoScan Professional

Method:

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also referred to as drones and multicopters, offer a great variety of applications in geomorphic research. Commercially available UAVs can be operated easily through an Android/IOS app. Our working group uses a DJI Phantom 4 RTK for high-resolution photogrammetric surveys. Due to the D-RTK integrated within the aircraft and the additional DJI D-RTK 2 GNSS ground mobile station, which exchange correction data during flight, the Phantom 4 RTK provides high-precision data for centimeter-level positioning. From these imagery, we can produce high-resolution digital elevation models and orthophotos using the photogrammetric software Agisoft PhotoScan. Our aim is to compare DEMs and orthophotos collected in different points of time to detect geomorphic changes.

Phantom4_MelanieStammler_2022.jpg
© Melanie Stammler/GIUB
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Till Wenzel/GIUB

Differential GPS: Trimble R8s/R2 & Leica CS25

Hardware:

  • Trimble R8s and R2 antennas with equipment
  • Leica CS25 tablet with equipment

Method:

Differential global positioning systems use a correction method to enhance absolute/relative positioning in the field. Our equipment can be used in two different ways: 1) In a base and rover setting where the base station is placed at a fixed (known) location. From the known coordinates and the GPS signal received, a correction for the rover is calculated, achieving a positioning accuracy of several cm.
2) Signals of commercially available fixed stations are used for real time correction of GPS data. In this setting, only one antenna (rover) is used (R8s or Leica CS25) and receives the correction signals from the mobile network.

 Geophysical surveying equipment:

Electric Resistivity Tomography (ERT)

Hardware:

  • ABEM Terrameter LS
  • for up to 64  electrodes
  • 2 ABEM Lund cables with 21 take-outs at 5 m interval

Software:

  • RES2DINV for data analysis

Method:

Electric Resistivity Tomography measures the electric resistivity of certain ground sections by applying current and measuring voltage differences at  electrodes positioned along profile-lines . The measured "apparent resistivity"-values are re-calculated in by an analysis-software in several iteration steps to gain a 2D-modell of the subsurface resistivity-distribution. The resistivity-distribution gives information eg. about location and thickness of certain layers, water or ice content and moisture distribution.

ERT_MelissaKurscheid_2021.jpg
© Melissa Kurscheid
GPR_ThomasSchoch-Baumann_2015
© Thomas Baumann

Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)

Hardware:

  • GSSI SIR4000
  • 200 MHz-Antenna (shielded)

Software:

  • Radan 7
  • ReflexW

Method:

Ground-penetrating radar is a technique that uses high-frequency electromagnetic waves to acquire information on subsurface composition. The electromagnetic pulse is emitted from a transmitter antenna and propagates through the subsurface at a velocity determined by the dielectric properties of the subsurface materials. The pulse is reflected by inhomogeneities and layer boundaries and is received by a second antenna after a measured travel time (Schrott & Sass 2008).

Seismic refraction (SRT)

Hardware:

  • Geometrics Geode Seismic Recorder (24 channel seismograph)
  • 24 geophones with 14 Hz
  • 1 cable with 5 m take outs
  • Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 MK4 for operation

Software:

  • Seismodule Controller Software (SCS) for data aquisition
  • ReflexW for data analysis

Method: 

The principle of seismic refraction is based on elastic waves travelling through different subsurface materials, such as sand, gravel, and bedrock, at different velocities. The denser the material, the faster the waves travel. A prerequisite for the successful application is that each successive underlying layer of sediment or bedrock must increase in density and therefore, velocity (Schrott & Sass 2008). 

SRT_RahelPaasch_2021_2.jpg
© Rahel Paasch

Rock testing:

Schmidt hammer

Method:

The Proseq RockSchmidt (Type N) is a special Schmidt hammer for rock testing applications to investigate e.g. rock hardness, rock strength and weathering. The RockSchmidt measures the distance of rebound of the impact of a piston on a rock surface, i.e. harder rocks have higher rebound (R) values. Further applications include the age estimation of geomorphic landforms of e.g. periglacial, glacial or mass movement origin (i.e. relative dating or Schmidt hammer exposure-age dating combined with cosmogenic nuclide dating). Calibration of the Schmidt hammer can be easily achieved with the Proceq test anvil (see proceq). 

SchmidtHammer_ThomasSchoch-Baumann_2016.JPG
© Thomas Baumann

Sediment coring:

Sediment_Coring2_GabrieleKraus_2020.jpg
© Gabriele Kraus/GIUB

Drilling

Method:

Percussion coring is a widely used method for shallow subsurface investigations in geomorphological field research. It enables the stratigraphic recording and interpretation of unconsolidated and solid rock sequences and, depending on the nature of the subsurface, allows for the reconstruction of landscape evolution through relative age dating of samples (e.g. 14C, OSL). It is further used for point validation of the indirect geophysical surveying.

Drilling is done with a petrol engine and a pneumatic ram probe (10 and 25 kg). A hydraulic lifting unit with a petrol engine is used for extraction of the sediment tubes. 


Cooperations

University cooperations

Non-university cooperation partners of ongoing research projects

Wird geladen