The Matterhorn, one of the most emblematic mountains of the world, shrouded in clouds. The Matterhorn is located at the boundaries of the Eurasian and African tectonic plates and is generally considered to be geologically part of Africa (Photo: © 2011 Martin Beniston).


The scientific objectives of the TECTOCLIM Project, funded by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation ("CTI") are two-fold:

1. The CTI project will make major steps forward for the understanding of climate processes, through running highly complex numerical models under the extreme conditions that the Earth suffered in its geological history.

Among the numerous scientific questions, the following will be addressed in priority:

- Different landmass distribution?

- Different sea-level, and in particular with large area covered by shallow water?

- Higher/lower temperature?

- Higher/lower salinity?

- Higher/lower CO2 content?

- Higher/lower moisture, and different evaporation and precipitation conditions?

- Higher/lower vegetation cover, and different type of vegetation?

Such scientific progress will have major repercussions not only on the study of past climate, but also (and above all) on the present-day debate on ongoing climate change. Indeed, results given by current models of future climate are subject to caution and debate. By definition, predictions will only be confirmed or invalidated in the coming tens of years. On the contrary, the same models can be run for the past conditions and their results can be validated straightforward through geological records as long as one can analyse them in their genuine configuration.

2. The TECTOCLIM project will allow the 4DGeoSystems model to make a quantum leap by integrating the interaction between tectonic and climate. Thanks to the full 3D conversion of our model, the palaeo-climate model will shed light on the effect of higher or lower erosion rates on various relief systems, and the impact of the relief response back to the climate system (see example in Fig.05). Regional variations in sedimentation (stemming from the erosion) under diverse climatic conditions will help the 4DGeoSystems model to go from a global geodynamic framework to local prediction at basin scale, concerning the formation of porous layers (potentially containing water, oil or gas, or able to store a large volume of carbon dioxide).

Scientists involved

- Dr. Marjorie Perroud

- Dr.Christian Vérard

- Dr. Cyril Hochard

- Dr. Maura Brunetti