Hydrology and Climate research team


Climate change and population growth are great threats that join together in their impacts on hydrology and ecosystems. This crossroad has led to the rise of a new hydrological discipline, lying at the interface between conventional hydrology, ecology and climate science. This discipline, sometimes referred to as 'climate hydrology', conceives hydrological systems as part of the Earth's global system, being impacted by anthropogenic emissions and land use change, but also regulating a number of land–atmosphere feedbacks that influence trends in climate and the occurrence of hydro-meteorological extremes.

The work of the Hydrology and Climate team focuses on the study of climate hydrology, trying to understand how the hydrosphere, biosphere and climate interact, the extent to which these interactions reflect ongoing Earth's system changes, and the implications for current and future societies.


Hydrology and Climate research team

From left to right: Hao Li, Shujie Cheng, Irina Petrova, Qiqi Gou, Diego Miralles, Feng Zhong, Petra Hulsman, Jessica Keune and Akash Koppa. Not in the picture: Çağlar Küçük, Dominik Rains, Jeroen Claessen and Weijie Zhang, as well as external researchers Hendrik Wouters (VITO), Brecht Martens (IMDC), Mojtaba Naghdizadegan (Shiraz University), and Dominik Schumacher (ETHZ).

Lines of research

Research Lines HCT


  1. Land feedbacks | Satellite and in situ observations – in combination with heat and vapor transfer models, and regional climate models – are applied to investigate land–atmosphere feedbacks. The primary goal is to unravel the effect of land (e.g. vegetation, soil moisture) on the circulation of heat and moisture in the atmosphere, and ultimately on temperature, precipitation and radiation. The central focus is on hydro-meteorological extremes, such as droughts and heatwaves and their impact on societies. The potential of land cover change and management (e.g. afforestation) as climate mitigation strategies is explored. Projects striving in this direction include the ERC DRY–2–DRY or the H2020 DOWN2EARTH (EU).
  2. Terrestrial evaporation | Satellite observations are employed to monitor the long-term variability of the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. Examples of this line of research include the co-development of precipitation (MSWEP) and soil moisture (CCI) datasets, and particularly of terrestrial evaporation (GLEAM). We also have commitment to provide high-resolution operational evaporation and soil moisture data (ET–Sense project, 4DMED–Hydrology, Digital Twin Earth (DTE)–Hydrology), and collaborate with VanderSat on the generation of hyper-resolution products. We also lead the annual section on land evaporation in the State of the Climate report (BAMS), and represent the land evaporation ECV in GCOS.
  3. Ecosystem Impacts | A central focus of our group is the understanding of the hydro-climatic factors that determine the state of ecosystems. The emphasis concentrates on the impact of hydro-climatic extremes and long-term climate change on vegetation. To this end, process-based models, as well as mathematical tools – like machine-learning and causal inference methods – are applied to study ecosystem resistance and resilience. Recent and ongoing initiatives in this direction include the BELSPO SAT-EX and STR3S projects, or the H2020 DOWN2EARTH (EU) project.