Prof. Norbert Frank

Norber Frank in der PEP1

Physics of Environmental Archives


Address Im Neuenheimer Feld 229
Room 420
Phone 546332
E-mail Norbert.Frank (at)
Group Physik der Umweltarchive


I have studied physics at Heidelberg University. During my Diploma project and subsequent PhD I have explored natural radionuclides (Thorium, Protactinum, and Uranium Isotopes) in deep sea ferro-manganese crusts and nodules, hemipelagic sediments, secondary carbonates such as travertine, speleothems, and corals. Through the past two decades, my work was centerd on two distant fields, the processes driving metal transport in the ocean over climate time scales and the high precision dating of secondary carbonates in general and in cases of archeological sites of early humans in Europe. During my research training I was DFG postdoctoral fellow at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University (New York), where I worked with Prof. Steven Goldstein and Prof. Sidney Hemming. Subsequently I came back to Heidelberg University but this time to the Earth Science Department. Back than, I initiated the use of continental secondary carbonates for climate science in Heidelberg, which led to the DFG research group DAPHNE and I started sea going research. Instead of proceeding in this direction I became a Marie Curie fellow and subsequently permanent staff scientist at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science (LSCE) at the french CEA and CNRS (Paris). During my 12 years in France I achieved a new analytical infra-structure for isotope geochemistry, developed the research team in new science directions, and obtained funding for the exploration of cold-water corals as a novel climate archive, including the first cruise as chief scientist to Iceland. I obtained my habilitation in 2010 at the University Versailles St. Quentin and was nominated Senior Expert of the CEA. In 2012 I than accepted the position of Professor in Physics and Earth Sciences at Heidelberg University. I became director of the Institute of Environmental Physics and was recently nominated into the board of directors of the Heidelberg Graduate School of Physics. Since than, the team has developed a broad research program from past climate reconstructions using climate archives to the detection and quantification of atmospheric water transport and greenhouse gases. Again a large analytical infra-structure was built. Two research cruises, one to the Mid-latitude North Atlantic seamounts and the one to the Mediterranean Sea were conducted and new research cooperations led to the study of speleothems around the world.

I contribute widely to the teaching in Physics and Earth Science and I was honored by the teaching award of the Faculty of Physics in 2018. I have supervised, mentored, supported, and examined a large number of students at all stages of their career including the participation to a mentoring program of the Leibniz Society. I act as reviewer for numerous journals and funding bodies, and I am associate member of the editorial board of the recently founded journal EGU Geochronology. I am an active member in the Geochemical Society, AGU, and DPG.

Research interests

  • The physics of (past)climates and the geochemical cylces of elements (in particular within the ocean) are my main research instrests. I appraoch the field via the study of natural archives such as corals and speleothems, but also marine sediments. Those can be accurately dated using natural radioactive nuclides and furthermore store information on past climate dynamics, climate state variables and elemental cycles, including the carbon cycle. However, I am also interested in archeometry, the link between climate and human societies and technological developments of mass spectrometry.

Selected publications

  • 420,000 year assessment of fault leakage rates shows geological carbon storage is secure Johannes M. Miocic, Stuart M. V. Gilfillan, Norbert Frank, Andrea Schroeder-Ritzrau, Neil M. Burnside and R. Stuart Haszeldine. Nature Scientific Reports, 9, Article number: 769 (2019) (go to)
  • Barium isotopes in cold-water corals Freya Hemsing, Yu-Te Hsieh, Luke Bridgestock, Peter T. Spooner, Laura F. Robinson, Norbert Frank, Gideon M. Henderson
    Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 491, 183-192 (2018) (go to)
  • Two 'pillars' of cold-water coral reefs along Atlantic European margins: Prevalent association of Madrepora oculata with Lophelia pertusa, from reef to colony scale S Arnaud-Haond, IMJ Van den Beld, R Becheler, C Orejas, L Menot, N Frank, A Grehan, JF Bourillet, Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 145, 110-119 (2017) (go to)
  • The earliest settlers of Mesoamerica date back to the late Pleistocene Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, Julia Becker, Fabio Hering, Eberhard Frey, Arturo González González, Jens Fohlmeister, Sarah Stinnesbeck, Norbert Frank, Alejandro Terrazas Mata, Martha Elena Benavente, Jerónimo Avilés Olguín, Eugenio Aceves Núñez, Patrick Zell, Michael Deininger, PlosOne, 12/8 (2017) (go to)
  • High precision U-series dating of scleractinian cold-water corals using an automated chromatographic U and Th extraction Anne-Marie Wefing , Jennifer Arps , Patrick Blaser , Claudia Wienberg, Dierk Hebbeln, Norbert Frank, Chemical Geology, 475, 140-148 (2017) (go to)
  • Characterizing tufa barrages in relation to channel bed morphology in a small karstic river by airborne LiDAR topo-bathymetry Jörn Profe, Bernhard Höfle, Martin Hämmerle, Frank Steinbacher, Mon-Shieh Yang, Andrea Schröder-Ritzrau, Norbert Frank, Proceedings of the Geologists' Association; 127, 6, 664–675, (2016) (go to)
  • Biological and physical controls in the Southern Ocean on past millennial-scale atmospheric CO2 changes, Julia Gottschalk, Luke C Skinner, Jörg Lippold, Hendrik Vogel, Norbert Frank, Samuel L Jaccard, Claire Waelbroeck, Nature Communications, 7, doi:10.1038/ncomms11539 (2016) (go to)
  • Strong and deep Atlantic meridiornal overturning circulation during the last glacial cycle E. Böhm , J. Lippold, M. Gutjahr, M. Frank, P. Blaser, B. Antz, J. Fohlmeister, N. Frank, M.B. Andersen, M. Deininger, Nature 517, 73-76, (2015) (go to)
  • The geochemistry of deep-sea coral skeletons: A review of vital effects and applications for palaeoceanography, L. F Robinson, J. F Adkins, N. Frank, A. C Gagnon, N. G Prouty, E Brendan Roark, T. van de Flierdt, Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 99, 184-198 (2014)
  • Li/Mg systematics in scleractinian corals: Calibration of the thermometer, P. Montagna, M. McCulloch, E. Douville, M. López Correa, J. Trotter, R. Rodolfo-Metalpa, D. Dissard, C. Ferrier-Pagès, N. Frank, A.Freiwald, S. Goldstein, C. Mazzoli, S. Reynaud, A. Rüggeberg, S. Russo, M. Taviani, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 132,288-310 (2014)
  • A high-resolution coral-based 14C record of surface water processes in the Western Mediterranean Sea, N. Tisnérat-Laborde, P. Montagna, M. McCulloch, G. Siani, S. Silenzi, N. Frank, Radiocarbon, 55, 1617-1630 (2013)
  • Northeastern Atlantic cold-water coral reefs and climate Frank, N., Freiwald, A., Lopez Correa, M., Eisele, M., Hebbeln, D., Wienberg, C., van Rooij, D., Colin, C., van Weering, T., de Haas, H., Roberts, M., Buhl-Mortensen, P., B. de Mol, Douville, P., Blamart, D., and Hatte, C., Geology, 39, 743-746 (2011) (go to)
  • Neodymium isotopic composition of deep-sea corals from the NE Atlantic: implications for past hydrological changes during the Holocene C. Colin, N. Frank, K. Copard, E. Douville, Quaternary Science Reviews 29, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.05.012 (2010)
  • Transferring radiometric dating of the last Interglacial sea level high stand to marine and ice core records C. Waelbroeck, N. Frank, J. Jouzel, F. Parrenin, V. Masson-Delmotte, D. Genty, EPSL, 265, 183-194 (2008)
  • Open system U-series ages of corals from a subsiding reef in New Caledonia: Implications for Holocene sea level rise, and subsidence rate N. Frank, L.Turpin, G. Cabioch, D. Blamart, C. Colin, M. Tressens-Fedou, P. Bonhomme, and P. Jean-Baptist, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 249, 274-289 (2006)
  • A new technique for precise uranium-series dating of travertine micro-samples R. Mallick and N. Frank, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 66/24, 4261-4272 (2002)
  • Start of the last interglacial period at 135 ka: Evidence from a high Alpine stalagmite Spötl, A. Mangini, N. Frank, R. Eichstädter, S. Burns, Geology 30, 815-818 (2002)
  • 230Th/U dating of the Trojan water quarries N. Frank, A. Mangini, and G. Wagner, Archeometry 44/2, 305-314 (2002)
  • Coral provides way to age deep water Mangini, M. Lomitschka, R. Eichstädter, N. Frank, S. Vogler, G. Bonani, I. Hajdas and J. Pätzold, Nature 392, 347, (1998)