Max Planck Research Group Extreme Events

The Max Planck Research Group Extreme Events investigates the nature and impacts of extreme events in biological, societal and earth systems.

A 'handaxe' produced by an early hominin in Arabia. How did these populations living in marginal environments respond to extreme events such as sudden transitions to aridity?
The Gambia River in West Africa. Fieldwork in such areas is casting light on the process of human evolution in Africa and how our species evolved in a patchwork of ecological and climatic settings.

Extreme events – including extreme weather, abrupt socio-political changes, and technological transitions – can produce severe and non-linear responses. This research group aims to explore the character and impacts of extreme events from multiple perspectives using diverse methodologies. This intersectional project will involve research across the three Jena Max Planck Institutes (Chemical Ecology, Biogeochemistry, and the Science of Human History).

Questions which will be explored by the group include:

  • How are both short- and long-term impacts of extreme events recorded in archaeological, chemical, biological and earth system records?
  • What properties make geo-ecological, biological and societal systems resistant and resilient to extreme events?
  • How important are extreme events for human history and evolution?
  • How can knowledge of past extreme events help plan for future extreme events, which combine low likelihood with large impact?

Through fieldwork in areas such as Arabia and Africa this group will add time depth and multidisciplinarity to the investigation of extreme events.

Group Leader:

Dr. Huw S. Groucutt