Jonathan studies planetary boundaries in the Earth system from a complex dynamical system's perspective. He is particularly interested in developing a hierarchy of modelling approaches, from conceptual to full complexity models, for understanding the planetary co-evolutionary dynamics of human societies and their geophysical-biological environment. He aims at a system theoretical mapping of co-evolution space including the characterization of attractors, basin boundaries, inaccessible domains, critical transitions, and stability.
His major research themes are: to understand social tipping elements for sustainability transformation; identify stable and desirable coevolutionary pathways under prescribed sustainability paradigms; trace planetary boundaries and their interactions; test and compare different modelling approaches towards more detailed and spatially explicit models; and validate models against historical co-evolutionary trajectories, such as 20th century great acceleration. To this end, Jonathan combines methods and insights from complex systems theory, adaptive coevolutionary networks, control theory, agent-based models and game theory with well-established physical, biogeochemical, and economical knowledge.
Jonathan holds a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany and a diploma degree in Physics (MSc equivalent) from the University of Potsdam, Germany. Before coming to SRC, he studied physics, mathematics, environmental science, and oceanography at the University of Potsdam, Germany; University of California San Diego, USA; Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, USA and University of Bonn, Germany. He has also spent time in the field conducting paleoclimatological and speleological research in Meghalaya, North-East India.
Jonathan's published research includes work on complex network theory, dynamical systems theory and time series analysis with a focus on applications to understanding past and present climate variability and its interactions with human kind on planet Earth.
Jonathan is currently co-funded by the Stordalen Foundation via the Planetary Boundary Research Network and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK) via the Earth League's EarthDoc network. At PIK, he heads the flagship project COPAN together with Jobst Heitzig from PIK's research domain "Transdisciplinary concepts and methods". Jonathan has co-organized two high-level workshops in the ongoing LOOPS series on “Closing the loop – Towards co-evolutionary modeling of global society-environment interactions” (Kloster Chorin, Germany, 2014) and “From limits to growth to planetary boundaries: Defining the safe and just space for humanity” (Southampton, UK, 2015) and serves as co-editor for a special issue on these topics in the journal Earth System Dynamics.
Awards and achievements:
Research news | 2017-09-24
Why it is high time for a more people-centred paradigm in Earth System science to better study the challenges of the Anthropocene
Research news | 2016-09-30
PNAS study examines if climate-related disasters increase the risk of conflict outbreaks
Research news | 2016-04-14
New open source Python software package offers new perspectives to old network analyses
2018 - Journal / article
Changes to climate–carbon cycle feedbacks may significantly affect the Earth system’s response to greenhouse gas emissions. These feedbacks are usually analysed from numerical output of complex and arguably opaque Earth system models. Here, we construct a stylised global climate–carbon cycle model, test its output against comprehensive Earth system models, and investigate the strengths of its climate–carbon cycle feedbacks ...
2018 - Journal / article
The term tipping point has experienced explosive popularity across multiple disciplines over the last decade. Research on social-ecological systems (SES) has contributed to the growth and diversity of the term's use. The diverse uses of the term obscure potential differences between tipping behavior in natural and social systems, and issues of causality across natural and social system components in SES. This paper aims to cre...
2017 - Journal / article
International commitment to the appropriately ambitious Paris climate agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 has pulled into the limelight the urgent need for major scientific progress in understanding and modelling the Anthropocene, the tightly intertwined social-environmental planetary system that humanity now inhabits. The Anthropocene qualitatively differs from previous eras in Earth’s histo...
2016 - Journal / article
In recent years, the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes have suffered from severe winters like the extreme 2012/13 winter in the eastern United States. These cold spells were linked to a meandering upper-tropospheric jet stream pattern and a negative Arctic Oscillation index (AO). However, the nature of the drivers behind these circulation patterns remains controversial. Various studies have proposed different mechanisms related...