Geophysikalisches Kolloquium: A Global Observatory for the Carbon Cycle in the Earth System

externer Link folgtProf. Dr. Martin Heimann

externer Link folgtMPI for Biogeochemistry, Jena


The global carbon cycle has become an important research topic in Earth System science. In order to understand and predict and potentially manage its behavior in response to human influences and climate change, a global scale observing system for carbon is needed. Such a system has to track carbon pools and pool changes in the atmosphere, in the ocean and on land with a spatial and temporal resolution that is sufficient to (1) attribute changes to particular processes and process drivers, and (2) that allows to estimate regional carbon balances in order to validate carbon mitigation policies. A multitude of observing and quantification techniques have been developed over the last decades; such as atmospheric concentration measurements, biomass estimates from forestry statistics, measurements of the exchange flux between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere, measurements of the partial pressure of CO2 in surface waters from ships of opportunity, or measurements of changes in dissolved carbon in deeper waters using research cruises. These point measurements are complemented by observations of changes in associated carbon cycle tracers such as carbon isotopes (13C, 14C) and atmospheric oxygen. Increasingly space borne remote sensing of the atmospheric CO2 column and carbon related surface properties have been added to the observation portfolio.


The European research infrastructure “Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS)” and on the international level the integrated carbon observation program of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) will establish a regional/global observatory for the carbon cycle over the next five years which will integrate and harmonize these observation sources and provide support for their long-term sustainable operation.


Each of the presently existing data streams have provided new, impressive insights into the dynamics of the carbon flows in the Earth System. However, how compatible is the information from these different data sources? Bringing the various data streams together in a consistent way poses a huge scientific challenge, both because of the very different temporal and spatial characteristics of the observation data streams and also because of the tremendous heterogeneity of the carbon cycle on land and in the ocean. First attempts to apply data assimilation methods similar to numerical weather prediction demonstrate a way forward, however, limitations in current carbon cycle modeling systems still pose serious difficulties.




15:15 h


Bundesstr. 53, room 022/023
Seminar Room 022/023, Ground Floor, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Hamburg


Martin Heimann, MPI für Biogeochemie, Jena


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