Dr. Jonathan Donges

FutureLab Leader, Working Group Leader

Jonathan Donges is Co-Leader of  the FutureLab on Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene and Working Group Leader on Whole Earth System Analysis in Research Department on Earth System Analysis of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He interacts closely with PIK's Complexity Science Department (RD4) in the scope of the COPAN collaboration.

His research work focusses on dynamics of planetary-scale socio-ecological systems, climatic and social tipping elements, their dynamics and interactions, decarbonization dynamics and sustainability transformation, conceptual models of society-environment coevolutionary dynamics, structure and dynamics of complex networks, nonlinear dynamics and time series analysis, and application of these methods to climate physics and Earth system analysis.


Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
T +49 (0)331 288 2468
P.O. Box 60 12 03
14412 Potsdam


Co-speaker, COPAN collaboration with PIK's Complexity Science Department (RD4)

Researcher, Planetary Boundaries Research Lab, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden

Visiting Research Collaborator, High Meadows Environmental Institute, Princeton University, USA

Positions and other professional roles

  • since 2016: Co-lead developer, COPAN:CORE World-Earth modelling framework
  • 2017 - 2021: Co-PI, Leibniz Association project DominoES (Domino effects in the Earth system - Can Antarctica tip climate policy?)
  • 2013 - 2018: Joint Post-Doc, Stordalen Scholar and EarthDoc at Research Domain for Earth system analysis, Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden within Planetary Boundaries Research Lab
  • 2013 - 2018: Co-head of PIK's flagship project COPAN on Coevolutionary Pathways in the Earth system


  • 2009 - 2012: PhD (summa cum laude) with Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Jürgen Kurths in theoretical physics at Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research and Department of Physics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
    Topic: "Functional network macroscopes for probing past and present Earth system analysis: Complex hierarchical interactions, tipping points, and beyond" (thesis submitted May 2012)
  • 2009: Diplom (Grade: with distinction), M.Sc. equivalent in Physics, University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 2008 - 2009: Final year project on "Complex networks in the climate system" with Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Jürgen Kurths at Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 2006 - 2007: Year of study at University of California San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, USA
  • 2005 - 2009: Graduate studies of physics, University of Potsdam, Germany, Subsidiary subject: environmental sciences
  • 2003 - 2005: Undergraduate studies in physics, University of Bonn, Germany, Subsidiary subject: Astrophysics

International experience

  • 2016 - 2019: Several research stays at Princeton University (New Jersey, USA) in the framework of the Princeton-Humboldt Cooperation and Collective Cognition Network (CoCCoN).
  • 2013 - present: Frequent research visits within Planetary Boundary Research Initiative, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • 2011 - 2012: Project work on time series analysis of sea level dynamics, funded by German Academic Exchange Service and Portugese Foundation for Science and Technology, University of Porto, Portugal
  • 2009 and 2011: Speleological and paleoclimatological field work (Indian Speleological Monitoring Expedition), Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India
  • 2009: Research visit to Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, India
  • 2006 - 2007: Research project on optimal parameter estimation exploiting synchonization phenomena with Prof. Dr. Henry D.I. Abarbanel, Institute for Nonlinear Science, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, USA
  • 1999: High school exchange program, Apalachicola, Florida, USA

Research Interests

  • Dynamics of planetary-scale socio-ecological systems
  • Climatic and social tipping elements, their dynamics and interactions
  • Decarbonization dynamics and sustainability transformation
  • Conceptual models of society-environment coevolutionary dynamics
  • Structure and dynamics of complex networks
  • Nonlinear dynamics and time series analysis
  • Application of these methods to climate physics and Earth system analysis

Full list of publications

Full publication list

Selected publications

S1 J.F. Donges, W. Lucht, J. Heitzig, W. Barfuss, S.E. Cornell, S.J. Lade, and M. Schlüter,
Taxonomies for structuring models for World-Earth system analysis of the Anthropocene: subsystems, their interactions and social-ecological feedback loops,
Earth System Dynamics, in press (2021),
DOI: 10.5194/esd-2018-27.

S2 J.F. Donges*/J. Heitzig*, W. Barfuss, M. Wiedermann, J.A. Kassel, T. Kittel, J.J. Kolb, T. Kolster, F. Müller-Hansen, I.M. Otto, K.B. Zimmerer, and W. Lucht,
Earth system modeling with endogenous and dynamic human societies: the copan:CORE open World-Earth modeling framework
Earth System Dynamics 11, 395–413 (2020),
DOI: 10.5194/esd-11-395-2020,
* The first two authors share the lead authorship.

S3 J.F. Donges*/I.M. Otto*, R. Cremades, A. Bhowmik, R. Hewitt, W. Lucht, J. Rockström, F. Allerberger, S. Doe, A. Lenferna, M. McCaffrey, N. Morán, D.P. van Vuuren, H.J. Schellnhuber,
Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS),  (2020),
* The first two authors share the lead authorship,
PIK press release, SRC news, New York Times.

S4 W. Steffen, J. Rockström, K. Richardson, T.M. Lenton, C. Folke, D. Liverman, C.P. Summerhayes, A.D. Barnosky, S.E. Cornell, M. Crucifix, J.F. Donges, I. Fetzer, S.J. Lade, M. Scheffer, R. Winkelmann, and H.J. Schellnhuber,
Trajectories of the Earth system in the Anthropocene,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) (2018),
, SRC press release.

S5 J.F. Donges*/R. Winkelmann*, W. Lucht, S.E. Cornell, J.G. Dyke, J. Rockström, J. Heitzig, and H.J. Schellnhuber,
Closing the loop: reconnecting human dynamics to Earth system science
The Anthropocene Review 4(2), 151-157 (2017),
DOI: 10.1177/2053019617725537,
* The first two authors share the lead authorship,
News release (Stockholm Resilience Centre).

S6 J.F. Donges, J. Heitzig, B. Beronov, M. Wiedermann, J. Runge, Q.-Y. Feng, L. Tupikina, V. Stolbova, R.V. Donner, N. Marwan, H.A. Dijkstra, and J. Kurths,
Unified functional network and nonlinear time series analysis for complex systems science: The pyunicorn package,
Chaos 25, 113101 (2015),
DOI: 10.1063/1.4934554,
Preprint: arxiv.org:1507.01571 [physics.data-an],
Press release
(American Institute of Physics),
News release (PIK, English and German),
News release (Stockholm Resilience Centre, English).

S7 J.F. Donges, R.V. Donner, M.H. Trauth, N. Marwan, H.J. Schellnhuber and J. Kurths,
Nonlinear detection of paleoclimate-variability transitions possibly related to human evolution,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) 108, 20422-20427 (2011),

Current teaching activities

Past teaching activities

  • Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2019 for statistical physics and climate science, awarded by DFG and BMBF
  • Young Elite - Top 40 under 40 in Science and Society Award 2019, by CAPITAL
  • Wladimir Peter Köppen Prize 2014, awarded by Cluster of Excellence CliSAP, Hamburg
  • Friedrich-Hirzebruch dissertation award (second mention) 2014, awarded by German National Academic Foundation
  • Donald L. Turcotte award for outstanding dissertations in nonlinear geophysics, awarded by American Geophysical Union 2013
  • PhD scholarship, awarded by German National Academic Foundation 2012
  • Falling Walls Lab scholarship, awarded by Falling Walls Foundation and A.T. Kearney 2011
  • Award for outstanding graduates in Physics (Physik-Studienpreis), awarded by Physical Society of Berlin and WE-Heraeus Foundation 2010
  • Scholarship, Education Abroad Program, University of California 2007
  • Fulbright scholarship, German-American Fulbright Commission 2006
  • Hölderlin scholarship, German National Academic Foundation and Siemens Management Consulting 2006
  • Scholarship, awarded by German National Academic Foundation 2005
  • Six federal state level awards (North Rhine-Westphalia), Jugend Forscht and Schüler Experimentieren science competitions (1995 - 2001)

Fun fact:

Erdős number: 3 (shortest path distance in collaboration network from JFD via Jobst Heitzig and Marcel Erné to Paul Erdös)