The Earth System Sciences (ESS) study the interaction of all the spheres of the Earth System, i.e. the geosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and anthroposphere. Many of the pressing challenges of our time, such as global warming, ocean acidification, overexploitation of resources, etc., require a holistic understanding of the Earth System in order to improve either mitigation or adaptation.

In particular, crises become exacerbated when critical thresholds are crossed. These points are sudden thresholds that lead to large and irreversible changes in the state of the system, and are likely to both be caused by, and have severe consequences on human society. These could be a volcanic eruption, a landslide, or a tipping point in the climate system.

The EarthCriSys scientists (who are from several different universities and research institutes) have the tools and expertise to identify, quantify and tackle these urgent and unknown critical points, and the responses of the Earth System. Crucially, by investigating the past of our planet, we can assess what took place before, during and after a breach of threshold. This sets our approach apart from extrapolating into the future only. As such, the overarching research question that this project will address is: What are these critical interactions in the Earth System that underlie these sudden thresholds? Further, can these causes and consequences be quantified?

An interdisciplinary team of scientists will tackle these questions in an approach combining the world-leading expertise available in four separate institutes within JGU, the Max Plank Institute for Chemistry (MPIC), two Leibniz institutes (the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz, RGZM, and Senckenberg, SGN), and the Universities of Frankfurt and Heidelberg, using a combination of studies of past system variability, modern observations, experiments, and modeling.