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Working Group Hydrogeography and Climatology


Prof. Dr. Karl Schneider

Our research focuses on understanding water and energy fluxes at the land surface. Water is an essential element of life. The water cycle, available water resources, and water quality are closely linked to and determined by the energy budget, plant growth, land and plant management, nutrient supply and the natural as well as socio-economic conditions at a specific location. The central research theme of the chair for hydro-geography and climatology is research on water, carbon and nutrient fluxes at the land surface. We are particularly interested in analyzing the spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability of these fluxes and their interaction and feedback with the climate as well as the human system. Particularly, the regulating functions of the soil-plant-atmosphere system upon water, carbon and nutrient fluxes including effects of human management are at the core of our research agenda. Based upon field research we develop numerical process based models. To better understand spatial heterogeneity and temporal patterns, we develop remote sensing based methods to quantify land surface parameters and utilize these in our land surface process models.While analyzing interactions and feedback in the natural system is a challenging task, many effects on the land surface cannot be understood from a purely natural science background. Thus addressing the impact of the human system upon natural processes and vice versa is not only of key importance to our research, it also fits nicely into the research agenda of the Geographical Institute, which focuses particularly on issues of "Humans and their Environment".Geography focuses on understanding processes at the earth surface particularly with regards to their spatial patterns, temporal dynamics and mutual interactions of human and natural systems. Thus, based upon understanding  these guiding processes, recommendations of management alternatives can be developed that are particularly needed in the context of global change and sustainable use of natural resources.Computer models are an important tool to analyze the system and help answering these questions. Based upon the Process-Oriented, Modular Environment and Vegetation Model (PROMET-V) and upon the recently developed DANUBIA Model, we analyze water, carbon and nutrient fluxes in the soil-vegetation-atmosphere system.Spatially explicit data on the status of the environment is derived from remote sensing data. Our research here focuses on the extraction of land use and plant parameters, using optical remote sensing data, as well as  measuring surface soil moisture using spaceborne SAR data. These data are used in the models as data input, to estimate and update model parameters. They are also used to validate model results.Models as well as remote sensing data require a thorough validation. For this purpose we use field measurements from measurement campaigns as well as automatic measuring equipment.Expertise in key technologies such as remote sensing, GIS, model application and model development combined with regional expertise provides opportunities for challenging research as well as employment opportunities. Combining expertise in natural sciences with human sciences is a key profile area for geographers. This expertise is needed urgently in a globalizing world to find local solutions for global problems.