Introduction to Earth System Science

ECTS: 5 | credit hours: 4


Dr.rer.nat. Bernhard Schuberth

Univ.-Prof. Dr.techn. Mag.rer.nat. Roland Pail


Knowledge of fundamentals in mathematical physics, linear algebra, time series analysis


 Upon successful completion of the module, students are able

  • to understand the fundamental principles of the complex Earth system, its main geodynamic processes in the interior and on the surface, as well as their coupling mechanisms,
  • to understand the global energy budget,
  • to understand the role of satellite observations for the monitoring of geodynamic processes in the Earth system,
  • to work with observations, data and models of selected components of the Earth system,
  • to apply the mathematical and physical concepts concerning selected components of the Earth system,
  • to analyze the results of these data and models,
  • to understand these scientific contributions as integral component of geodetic Earth system research,
  • to communicate on a scientific level with experts of different geoscientific disciplines


The module consists of one lecture "Introduction to Earth System Science". It is split up into two main topics: part A "Outer System" and part B "Inner System" and is connecting earth's interior and earth's surface up to Earth's orbits

Part A: Outer System:

  • components of the Earth System (atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, solid Earth),
  • electromagnetic radiation and matter,
  • solar radiation and the Earth system,
  • radiation balance, greenhouse effect,
  • spatial and temporal variations, astronomical rhythms (day/night, seasons, Milankovitch cycle),
  • atmospheric circulation,
  • oceans,
  • continental hydrology,
  • cryosphere,
  • the role of satellites (active and passive sensors)

Part B: Inner System:

  • dynamics of the earth interior,
  • heat exchange,
  • mantle convection,
  • analysis of seismic wave propagation,
  • potential fields: magnetic field, gravity field;
  • measuring solid Earth processes with satellites (GPS, gravimetry, magnetometry, topography),
  • interaction of inner and outer part of the earth system


  • Kandel, Robert S. (1980): Earth and Cosmos. A Book Relating the Environment of Man on Earth to the Environment of Earth in the Cosmos. Burlington: Elsevier Scienc
  • Grotzinger, John; Jordan, Thomas H.; Press, Frank; Siever, Raymond (2007): Understanding earth. 5. ed. New York: Freeman
  • Lowrie, William (2006): Fundamentals of geophysics. 7. print. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press