Sedimentology & Marine Paleoenvironmental Dynamics


Katharina Hess, M.Sc.



Institute of Earth Sciences


Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg


Im Neuenheimer Feld 234


D-69120 Heidelberg



+49 (0)6221-54 5988






Research Profile:

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Equatorial Pacific is one of the most pronounced atmospheric and oceanic fluctuation affecting year-to-year climate worldwide. In recent decades, another ENSO type — “El Niño/La Niña Modoki” — has gained prominence with sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the Central Equatorial Pacific. In the context of ENSO Modoki, strong warming has been observed in the high latitudes, possibly enhancing the melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

My PhD project aims to better understand the spatio-temporal occurrence of ENSO Modoki from a paleo-perspective to improve the predictability of ENSO variations under future global warming conditions. For this purpose, high-resolution proxy records of SST variability are generated from ODP/IODP sediment cores from the western, central, and eastern Equatorial Pacific. The proxies cover two time periods: (i) the Mid-Pleistocene to Holocene (300—0 kyr) with its alternating cold and warm phases and lower pCO2 concentrations than today, and (ii) the Early Pliocene (4.85—5.15 Ma), known for similarly high pCO2 concentrations as today and an ice-free Northern Hemisphere.

Methodologically, the project is based on benthic foraminiferal 18O stratigraphy, planktic foraminiferal SSTMg/Ca and alkenone-based SST reconstructions.


Academic Education:

 since 02/2022

Ph.D. student at the Institute of Earth Sciences, Heidelberg University. Supervisor: PD Dr. André Bahr


M.Sc. Thesis: “Historical records of North Atlantic storminess on the Shetland Islands (UK). Sedimentological and geochemical analyses of overwash processes from a coastal lake”. Supervisors: Dr. Max Engel, Prof. Dr. Olaf Bubenzer


Master studies in Geography (study focus: Physical Geography) at the Institute of Geography, Heidelberg University.

10/2017 - 08/2018

Master studies in Geoecology — Environmental Sciences at the Institute of Geosciences, Bayreuth University.


B.Sc. Thesis: “The cryosphere as a water resource in semi-arid northern Chile: Satellite-based studies of snow and glacier changes in the upper Huasco region [in German] “. Supervisors: Dr. Juliane Dame, Dr. Susanne Schmidt


Bachelor studies in Geography at the Institute of Geography, Heidelberg University.


(as of 02/2022)



[1]  Hess, K., Schmidt, S., Nüsser, M., Zang, C., and Dame, J., 2020. Glacier Change in the Semi-Arid Huasco Valley, Chile, between 1986 and 2016. Geosciences, 10(11): 429.


Conference Contributions:

[3] Hess, K., Jaeschke, A., Friedrich, O., Bahr, A., 2022. Pacific "ENSO-Modoki" on the rise under global warming conditions? A view from the Pleistocene. IODP Meeting, Potsdam.

[2]  Hess, K., Engel, M., Oetjen, J., Patel, T., Koutsodendris, A., Vakhrameeva, P., Schön, I., Dawson, S., and Heyvaert, V. M., 2021. A 1500-years record of North Atlantic storminess on the Shetland Islands (UK). Mid-European Geomorphology Meeting, Munich, Germany [Poster].

[1]  Hess, K., Engel, M., Oetjen, J., Patel, T., Schön, I., Dawson, S., and Heyvaert, V. M. A., 2021. Historical records of storm frequency on the Shetland Islands (UK) – Preliminary insights from lake sediment cores and coastal wave modelling, EGU General Assembly, EGU21-8773 [Abstract].


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Latest Revision: 2022-11-07
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