Summer School 2018 on Earth Surface Dynamics, Part 4

The VolkswagenFoundation funds a series of two summer schools entitled “Earth Surface Dynamics – Understanding Processes at the Earth’s Vulnerable Skin”. Here are some details about the content of the modules of the summer school.

Module 1 – Signal and Noise at the Earth’s Surface (JH Prora, Rügen) – This module will deal with electronic data resources, searching for specific data, transferring data between servers and computers, and data storage. The module also includes a comprehensive introduction to the MATLAB software, one of the most intuitive and productive software environments for engineers and scientists, used by more than a million people around the world. Then, basic statistical concepts for univariate, bivariate and multivariate data sets are introduced to equip the participants with the basic mathematical knowledge to properly describe and adequately investigate observed data. The second part of the module introduces methods to detect temporal and spatial patterns in 1D to 4D data, to manipulate signals in order to minimize the effects of noise, to correct all kinds of unwanted distortions, and to separate out various components of interest. These concepts are then addressed in a more practical context such as the identification and quantification of objects in images, to predict sediment routes in digital elevation models or to detect trends, rhythms and events in times series of environmental change (Trauth, Berner).

Module 2 – Exploring the Shallow Subsurface of the Earth (JH Potsdam) – This module presents an introduction to near-surface geophysics and how geophysical tools are used to explore subsurface structures, properties, and processes. The lectures will provide the theoretical background of various standard geophysical methods, such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity, magnetic, and seismic surveying. In addition, recent case studies will demonstrate the innovative application of these methods in different disciplines, such as hydrology/hydrogeology, soil science, civil engineering and archeology. The lectures will be complemented by various exercises as well as indoor and outdoor labs covering all aspects of a typical field experiment including survey design, data acquisition, processing, inversion, and interpretation. (Tronicke).

Module 3 – Remote Sensing of Earth Surface Processes (U Wandlitz) – In a joint-teaching effort with Department of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara, we will offer a module providing an introduction to environmental remote sensing and its applications. It covers the fundamentals of electromagnetic radiation and data processing, satellite systems and other monitoring systems, processing of optical and radar data, concepts and algorithms of image classifications, applications in the earth system science. Specific focus is put on generating digital elevation models from remote-sensing imagery (optical, radar), LIDAR and drone data. The module also provides an introduction and analysis of digital elevation models and their generation. We focus on deriving relevant topographic metrics for analyzing digital elevation models in a MATLAB framework. The goal is the ability to understand digital monitoring systems and be able to plan their application to relevant issues of earth system science independently (Bookhagen).

Module 4 – Modeling of Surface and Subsurface Processes (U Potsdam) – This module will be based on the first part of the popular textbook “Environmental Modeling – using MATLAB, 2nd Edition” (Springer 2012) by Ekkehard Holzbecher. There will be a general introduction on concepts of environmental models, while the main focus will be on physics-based modeling in the following. The entire modeling process will be presented, starting from fundamental physical laws, which are combined expressed by differential equations, which are solved then by analytical or numerical methods. Demonstration and use of pre- and post-processing tools and methods complete the introduction of the basics of modeling and simulation. General theoretical concepts are complemented by examples, in which the physical approach, including diffusion, advection, dispersion, sorption, decay and degradation is extended to consider various bio-geo-chemical processes simultaneously. Concepts of analytical and numerical methods will be outlined, as well as inverse modeling. In order to understand the thereby involved uncertainties and how they might affect the predicted parameters of interest, the general concept of uncertainty quantification and analysis of simulated physical models are explained (Holzbecher, with contributions of Berner).

Module 5 – Geoinformation Systems of the Earth’s Surface (JH Garmisch-Partenkirchen) – This module will cover the basic concepts of spatial data and applications using GIS software (ArcGIS and QGIS). It will include database creation, data management and conversion, data visualization and analysis, spatial analysis of raster and vector data, watershed analysis and map publishing (Paper/Web-based). Students will be introduced also to the application of Model – building and scripting. Georeferencing and digitizing of geological data from satellite imagery, aerial photography and paper maps, and the subsequent design of thematic maps forms the common base for the participants. Additionally, the application of GIS in environmental sciences will be introduced. The module will be linked to Module 3, introducing participants to the georeferencing and digitizing of geological data from satellite imagery and aerial photography, and the creation of thematic maps in geographic information system (Zeilinger).

Module 6 – Extreme Events, Geohazards and Georisk (JH Neustadt an der Weinstrasse) – This module provides an introduction into the application of geographic information systems (GIS) in the analysis of natural hazards and risks. Besides studying a number of different types of natural hazards such as tropical cyclones, landslides and floods, the course will cover methods of spatial analysis and prediction using real world datasets and project works. These methods include spatial queries, spatial statistics, interpolation and geostatistics, analysis of digital terrain models, and analysis and classification of optical remote sensing imagery. Insights into the general strategies to assess and communicate natural hazards and their predicted and actual impact are discussed in the context of historic extreme events (Schwanghart, with contributions of Berner).

Module 7 – Communicating Science (all locations) – This module aims at the identification of scientific problems, to plan a suitable project and to raise research funds, to manage the project and to communicate and suitably present scientific results. Contents of the module are: (1) basics of communication psychology and social psychology and its importance in environmental sciences, (2) team building and group processes, (3) dealing with disturbances, crises and conflicts, (4) project work, team and group work, (5) project planning and application, (6) project management and communication within projects, (7) effective fieldwork planning and execution in difficult terrains: challenges and best practices; (8) scientific presentation in the form of essays, posters and presentations, (9) popular writing of scientific results for media, social media and blogs, (10) career planning and application procedures, (11) science politics, authorship and plagiarism, and (12) talking to the media, stakeholders, politicians and decision makers (Foerster, Asrat, Maslin).

Module 8 – Excursions (all locations) – This module will present unique examples of shaping the Earth’s surface by exogenous and endogenous forces, some of which were previously thematized in the group challenges. Those examples will demonstrate the possible effects of these forces on the environment as well as on the economy, and strategies to mitigate the risk of natural disasters in a dynamic setting such as landsliding, flooding and earthquakes. The destinations of the excursions within Module 8 include: (1) the Berlin-Potsdam area, a densely-populated part of Germany, a landscape with a strong glacial overprint, with a possible risk of droughts in the near future according to the latest IPCC projections; (2) the coastline of the Baltic Sea, a low-lying coastal area at risk of flooding and coastal erosion, best seen from the difference of Caspar David Friedrich’s famous 1818 painting of the chalk cliffs on Rügen and today’s situation; (3) the Rhine Rift, a place of tectonic (the graben), volcanic (Kaiserstuhl) and seismic activity (still ongoing), forming a prominent geomorphologic feature. The Rhine Rift is also subject to dramatic anthropogenic influences, such as the straightening of the Upper Rhine River by J.G. Tulla in 1817-76 and, in very recent times, fluid-induced seismicity caused by the use of geothermal energy; and (4) the Zugspitze area of the Wetterstein Mountains in southern Germany, an area of extreme relief, causing a suite of interacting Earth surface processes and associated risks, such as landsliding and snow avalanching. In addition to the Earth surface dynamics aspects of the excursions, these fieldtrips will certainly also foster communication among participants and instructors (All).