Dr. Jörg Christian Robl


Dept. of Environment & Biodiversity
University of Salzburg
5020 Salzburg
Hellbrunnerstraße 34/III


+43 ((0)662) 8044 - 5419






Research Interests

Currently our research is focused on landscape evolutions at different spatial and temporal scales as response on tectonic and climatic forcing. This includes the long term evolution of landscapes towards steady state but also single hazardous events like debris flows or rock falls.


Active Orogens

Determination of timing, rates, duration and involved volumes of processes and their feedbacks in active orogens in different spatial and temporal scales. This involves field observations and the numerical description of orogen scale deformation, crustal thickening and uplift, the development of drainage systems accompanied by fluvial erosion and hill-slope instabilities.

Natural Hazards

Exploring the occurrence, return period and run-out distance of natural hazards in alpine domains and their impact on infrastructure. This involves the field observation of landslides, debris flows, snow avalanches, rock falls and floodings with sediment redistribution, the numerical description of these processes, the development of mitigation strategies and the implementation of protecting structures in field.

Project Funded



The research project is funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences from November 2022 to October 2025. It involves the University of Graz, the University of Salzburg, the three Austrian UNESCO Global Geoparks, and various international partners.

The movemont.at project aims at exploring the role of landslides as geosystem services, with a particular focus on environmental education at the three Austrian UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Stresses in mountain ranges under dead load are computed with a novel numerical approach and presented by means of VR - goggles in the visitor centers of the UNESCO Global Geoparks




 Project Funded

ELEvATE: Elevated Low Relief LandscapEs in Mountain Belts: Active Tectonics or Glacial REshaping? The Eastern Alps as Natural Laboratory.

Here you find the abstract of the Research Proposal!

This project is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the government of Salzburg for a period of three years.  After a one-year extension, the research project concluded with a series of high-profile publications in 2023. Several articles with exciting data (burial ages of cave sediments) are still in the publication pipeline.

Selected recent studies

The linear feedback precipitation model (LFPM) - a simple and efficient model for orographic precipitation in the context of landform evolution modeling

Hergarten S. and J. Robl


The influence of climate on landform evolution has attracted great interest over the past decades. While many studies aim at determining erosion rates or parameters of erosion models, feedbacks between tectonics, climate, and landform evolution have been discussed but addressed quantitatively only in a few modeling studies. One of the problems in this field is that coupling a large-scale landform evolution model with a regional climate model would dramatically increase the theoretical and numerical complexity. Only a few simple models have been made available so far that allow efficient numerical coupling between topography-controlled precipitation and erosion.



This paper fills this gap by introducing a quite simple approach involving two vertically integrated moisture components (vapor and cloud water). The interaction between the two components is linear and depends on altitude. This model structure is in principle the simplest approach that is able to predict both orographic precipitation at small scales and a large-scale decrease in precipitation over continental areas without introducing additional assumptions. Even in combination with transversal dispersion and elevation-dependent evapotranspiration, the model is of linear time complexity and increases the computing effort of efficient large-scale landform evolution models only moderately. Simple numerical experiments applying such a coupled landform evolution model show the strong impact of spatial precipitation gradients on mountain range geometry including steepness and peak elevation, position of the principal drainage divide, and drainage network properties.


Read the entire study!


MOVIES: Impact of model parameters on the Precipitation Pattern | India-Asia

MOVIES: Co-Evolution of Precipiation and Topographie




See also Stefan Hergartens openlem page: http://hergarten.at/openlem/ and learn to apply this fascinating code to different questions of landscape evolution: http://hergarten.at/openlem/firstexample/




Recent Study (GMD 2023)

Modeling large-scale landform evolution with a stream power law
for glacial erosion (OpenLEM v37): benchmarking experiments
against a more process-based description of ice flow (iSOSIA v3.4.3)

Liebl M., Robl J., Hergarten S., Egholm D.L. and K. Stüwe

Read the entire study!

Following the tradition of modeling fluvial landscape evolution, a novel approach describing glacial erosion based on an empirical stream power law was proposed. This approach differs substantially from well established process-based models applied to describe glacial erosion in mountain landscapes. Outstanding computational performance but a number of potential limitations compared to process-based models requires extensive testing to evaluate the applicability of this novel approach. In this study, we test the validity of the glacial stream power law and its implementation into a 2-D landform evolution model (OpenLEM) by benchmarking it against a state of the art surface process model based on the integrated second order shallow-ice approximation (iSOSIA).

We found that the glacial stream power approach cannot replace process-based models such as iSOSIA, but is complementary to them by addressing research questions that could not previously be answered due to a lack of computational efficiency. The implementation of the glacial stream power law is primarily suitable for large-scale simulations investigating the evolution of mountain topography in the interplay of tectonics and climate. As coupling glacial and fluvial erosion with sediment transport shows nearly the same computationally efficiency as its purely fluvial counterpart, mountain range scale simulations at high spatial resolution are not exclusively restricted to the fluvial domain anymore and a series of exciting research questions can be attacked by this novel approach.


Controls on the formation and size of potential landslide dams and dammed lakes in the Austrian Alps

Argentin A-L., Robl J., Prasicek G., Hergarten S., Hölbling D., Abad L. and Z. Dabiri


Controls on landsliding have long been studied, but the potential for landslide-induced dam and lake formation has received less attention. Here, we model possible landslides and the formation of landslide dams and lakes in the Austrian Alps. We combine a slope criterion with a probabilistic approach to determine landslide release areas and volumes. We then simulate the progression and deposition of the landslides with a fluid dynamic model. We characterize the resulting landslide deposits with commonly used metrics, investigate their relation to glacial land-forming and tectonic units, and discuss the roles of the drainage system and valley shape. We discover that modeled landslide dams and lakes cover a wide volume range. In line with real-world inventories, we further found that lake volume increases linearly with landslide volume in the case of efficient damming – when an exceptionally large lake is dammed by a relatively small landslide deposit. The distribution and size of potential landslide dams and lakes depends strongly on local topographic relief. For a given landslide volume, lake size depends on drainage area and valley geometry. The largest lakes form in glacial troughs, while the most efficient damming occurs where landslides block a gorge downstream of a wide valley, a situation preferentially encountered at the transition between two different tectonic units. Our results also contain inefficient damming events, a damming type that exhibits different scaling of landslide and lake metrics than efficient damming and is hardly reported in inventories. We assume that such events also occur in the real world and emphasize that their documentation is needed to better understand the effects of landsliding on the drainage system.



There is no modern academic teaching without research!  Therefore, fundamentals and new scientific findings are presented in the following lessons:

Bachelor Level

  • Introduction to the Basics of Geology
  • Introduction to General and Applied Geology
  • Geographic Information Systems for Geologists
  • Introduction to Numerical Modeling in Geology
  • Excursion: Eastern Alps
  • Tectonic Geomorphology

Master Level

  • Remote Sensing for Geologists
  • Applied Numerical Methods in Geology
  • Geodynamics
  • Natural hazards and geotechnical solutions

PhD Level

  • Data and Figures

Teacher Training  Biology and environmental studies

  • Bioplanet Earth
  • Biology as a science of life (lecture series)




Until now all lessons are held in German and you will find further informations here


Latest Publications

Argentin, A.-L., Prasicek, G., Robl, J., Hergarten, S., Hölbling, D., Abad, L., and Dabiri, Z., 2023, The scaling of landslide-dammed lakes: Global and Planetary Change, v. 228.

Duan, M., Neubauer, F., Robl, J. C., Zhou, X., Liebl, M., Argentin, A.-L. M., Dong, Y., Cheng, C., Zhang, B., Boekhout, F., and Bedoya Gonzalez, D. A., 2023, Northeastward expansion of the Tibetan Plateau: Topographic evidence from the North Qinling Mts. - Weihe Graben Coupling system, Central China: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 623, no. 6223.

Liebl, M., Robl, J., Hergarten, S., Egholm, D. L., and Stüwe, K., 2023, Modeling large-scale-landform evolution with a stream power law for glacial erosion (OpenLEM v37): benchmarking experiments against a more process-based description of ice flow (iSOSIA v3.4.3): Geosci. Model Dev., v. 16, no. 4, p. 1315-1343.

Turab, S. A., Stüwe, K., Stuart, F. M., Cogne, N., Chew, D. M., and Robl, J., 2023, A two phase escarpment evolution of the Red Sea margin of southwestern Saudi Arabia: Insights from low-temperature apatite thermochronology, v. 603.

Wetzlinger, K., Robl, J., Liebl, M., Dremel, F., Stüwe, K., and von Hagke, C., 2023, Old orogen – young topography: Evidence for relief rejuvenation in the Bohemian Massif: Austrian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 116, no. 1, p. 17-38.

Full List of Publications

More publications are in the pipeline ...