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Dr Sebastian Franz Martin Breitenbach

Dr Sebastian Franz Martin Breitenbach

Guest scientist


Researcher at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany

Climate Change and Earth-Ocean-Atmosphere Systems

Sebastian Breitenbach is accepting applications for PhD students.

Downing Site - Room No: N302
Downing Street

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223764368


2016 Researcher at Ruhr-University Bochum, Sediment- and Isotope Geology, Germany

2015-2016 Postdoctoral Researcher in the Godwin Laboratory of the Dept. Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge
2013-2016 Guest Researcher at the Department for Sediment and Isotope Geology, Ruhr-University Bochum
2009–2014 Postdoctoral Researcher in the Climate Geology group, Dept. Earth Sciences, ETH Zurich
2007–2008 Guest researcher at the Climate Geology and Trace Element Groups, ETH Zurich
2005 Visiting researcher in Environmental Science and Engineering at Caltech

Research Interests

  • Clumped isotope paleothermometry
  • Carbonate geochemistry (δ13C, δ18O, elements as environmental proxies, U-series chemistry)
  • Reconstruction of paleoclimate changes recorded in speleothems and cave monitoring survey
  • Water δ18O and δD as tracers of the hydrological cycle

My research focusses on speleothem-based paleoclimate reconstructions and clumped isotope paleothermometry. Carbonates are great archives of past climate and environmental conditions as they are ubiqitous, datable radiometrically, and host a plethora of chemical and mineralogical proxies. Extracting these indicators is great fun and highly informative for diverse fields in Earth Sciences. I monitor several cave systems in various climates to disentangle the processes that force geochemical changes in speleothems and carbonate systems. My regions of interest include India, Belize, Central Asia, Europe and Siberia.


Speleothem science ; palaeoclimate reconstructions ; Permafrost dynamics ; Stable isotopes

Key Publications


Lechleitner F., Baldini J.U.L., Breitenbach S.F.M., Fohlmeister J., McIntyre C., Goswami B., Jamieson R., Van der Voort T., Prufer K., Marwan N., Culleton B.J., Kennett D., Asmerom Y., Eglinton T. (accepted) Hydrological and climatological influences on a very high resolution tropical stalagmite radiocarbon record. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

Eroglu D., McRobie F.H., Ozken I., Stemler T., Wyrwoll K.-H., Breitenbach S.F.M., Marwan N., Kurths J. (2016) The Holocene East Asian-Australian summer monsoon: A see-saw relationship. Nature Communications 7, xxx-xxx, doi: 10.1038/ncomms12929

Welte C., Wacker L., Hattendorf B., Christl M., Yeman C., Fohlmeister J., Breitenbach S.F.M., Robinson L., Andrews A.H., Freiwald A., Synal H.-A., Günther D. (2016) Laser Ablation – Accelerator Mass Spectrometry: a novel approach for rapid radiocarbon analyses of carbonate archives at high spatial resolution. Analytical Chemistry X, xxx-xxx, doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01659

Jamieson R.A., Baldini J.U.L., Brett M.J., Taylor J., Ridley H.E., Ottley C., Prufer K.M., Wassenburg J., Scholz D., Breitenbach S.F.M. (2016) Intra- and inter-annual uranium concentration variability in a Belizean stalagmite controlled by prior aragonite precipitation: a new tool for reconstructing hydro-climate using aragonitic speleothems. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta X, xxx-xxx

Wassenburg J.A., Scholz D., Jochum K.P., Cheng H., Oster J., Immenhauser A., Richter D.K., Häger T., Hoffmann D., Jamieson R.A., Baldini J.U.L., Breitenbach S.F.M. (2016) Determination of aragonite trace element partition coefficients from speleothem calcite-aragonite transitions. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta X, xxx-xxx

Wolff C., Plessen B., Dudashvilli A., Breitenbach S.F.M., Cheng H., Edwards L., Strecker M. (in print) Precipitation evolution of Central Asia during the last 5000 years. The Holocene X, xxx-xxx

Kathayat G., Cheng H., Sinha A., Spötl C., Edwards R.L., Zhang H., Li X., Yi L., Ning Y., Cai Y., Lui W.L., Breitenbach S.F.M. (2016) Indian monsoon variability on millennial-orbital timescales. Scientific Reports 6:24374, doi:10.1038/srep24374

Andersen M.B., Vance D., Morford J.L., Bura-Nakic E., Breitenbach S.F.M., Och L. (2016) Closing in on the marine 238U/235U budget. Chemical Geology 420, 11-22, doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.10.041

Hoggarth J.A., Breitenbach S.F.M., Culleton B.J., Ebert C.E., Masson M.A., Kennett D.J. (2016) The political collapse of Chichen Itza in cultural and climatic context. Global and Planetary Change 138, 25-48, doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2015.12.007


Kele S., Breitenbach S.F.M., Capezzuoli E., Meckler A.N., Ziegler M., Millan I.M., Kluge T., Deak J., Hanselmann K., John C.M., Yan H., Liu Z., Bernasconi S.M. (2015) Temperature dependence of oxygen- and clumped isotope fractionation in carbonates: a study of travertines and tufas in the 6-95ºC temperature range. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 168, 172-192, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2015.06.032

Tan L., Cai Y., An Z., Cheng H., Shen C.-C., Breitenbach S.F.M., Gao Y., Edwards R., Zhang H., Du Y. (2015) A Chinese cave links climate change, social impacts, and human adaptation over the last 500 years. Scientific Reports 5:12284, doi:10.1038/srep12284 / in the media: University of Cambridge Press Release, EOS, Newsweek, TheNakedScientists interview

Breitenbach S.F.M., Lechleitner F.A., Meyer H., Diengdoh G., Mattey D., Marwan N. (2015) Cave ventilation and rainfall signals in dripwater in a monsoonal setting - a monitoring study from NE India. Chemical Geology 402, 111-124, doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.03.011

Ridley H., Asmerom Y., Baldini J.U.L., Breitenbach S.F.M., Aquino V.V., Prufer K.M., Culleton B.J., Polyak V.J., Lechleitner F.A., Kennett D.J., Zhang M., Marwan N., Macpherson C.G., Baldini L.M., Xiao T., Awe J., Haug G.H. (2015) Aerosol forcing of intertropical convergence zone position. Nature Geoscience 8, 195-200, doi:10.1038/ngeo2353

Sinha A., Kathayat G., Cheng H., Breitenbach S.F.M., Mudelsee M., Berkelhammer M., Du Y., Biswas J., Edwards L.R. (2015) Trends, Oscillations and Anomalies in the Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall over the Last Two Millennia. Nature Communications 6, 6309, doi:10.1038/ncomms7309

Winter A., Miller T., Kushnir Y., Black D., Lohmann G., Burnett A., Haug G., Estrella-Martinez J., Breitenbach S.F.M., Beaufort L., Cheng H. (2015). Persistent drying in the tropics linked to volcanic forcing. Nature Communications 6, doi:10.1038/ncomms8627

Baker A., Sodemann H., Baldini J.U.L., Breitenbach S.F.M., Johnson K., van Hunen J., Zhang P. (2015) Seasonality of westerly moisture transport in the East Asian Summer Monsoon and its implications for interpreting precipitation δ18O. Journal Geophysical Research – Atmospheres 120, doi:10.1002/2014JD022919

Donges J.F., Donner R.V., Marwan N., Breitenbach S.F.M., Rehfeld K., Kurths J. (2015) Nonlinear regime shifts in Holocene Asian monsoon dynamics inferred from speleothems: Potential impacts on cultural change and migratory patterns. Climate of the Past 11, 709-741, doi:10.5194/cp-11-709-2015

Ridley H., Baldini J.U.L., Prufer K.M., Walczak I.W., Breitenbach S.F.M. (2015) High-resolution monitoring of Yok Balum Cave, Belize: an investigation of seasonal ventilation regimes and the atmospheric and drip flow response to a local earthquake. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 77, 183-199, doi: 10.4311/2014ES0117


Meckler A.-N., Ziegler M., Breitenbach S.F.M., Millan I., Bernasconi S. (2014) Long-term performance of the Kiel carbonate device with a new correction scheme for clumped isotope measurements. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 28, 1705-1715, doi:10.1002/rcm.6949

Pacton M., Breitenbach S.F.M., Lechleitner F.A., Vaks A., Rollion-Bard C., Gutareva O.S., Osinzev A.V., Vasconcelos C. (2013) The role of microorganisms on the formation of a stalactite in Botovskaya Cave, Siberia – palaeoenvironmental implications. Biogeosciences 10, 6115-6130, doi:10.5194/bg-10-6115-2013

Breitenbach, S.F.M., Cai, Y., Kwiecien O., Osinzev, A.V., Tan L., Zhang H. (2014) A high-altitude cave as example for active karstification in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Cave and Karst Science 41, 132-137

Tsurikhin E., Breitenbach S.F.M., Loginov V., Votintseva A. (2014) The Dark Star of Baisun-tau: a history of exploration in Southern Uzbekistan, 1990-2013. Cave and Karst Science 41, 36-41


Vaks A., Gutareva O.S., Breitenbach S.F.M., Avirmed E., Mason A.J., Thomas A.L., Osinzev A. V., Kononov A. M., Henderson G. M. (2013) Speleothems reveal 500,000 year history of Siberian permafrost. Science 340, 183-186, doi:10.1126/science.1228729

Bernasconi S.M., Hu B., Wacker U., Fiebig J., Breitenbach S.F.M., Rutz T. (2013) Background effects on Faraday collectors in gas-source mass spectrometry and implications for clumped isotope measurements. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 27, 603-612, doi:10.1002/rcm.6490

Rehfeld K., Marwan N., Breitenbach S.F.M., Kurths J. (2013) Late Holocene Asian summer monsoon dynamics from small but complex networks of paleoclimate data. Climate Dynamics 41, 3-19, doi:10.1007/s00382-012-1448-3

Ernst N., Peterse F., Breitenbach S.F.M., Syiemlieh H.J., Eglinton T.I. (2013) Biomarkers record environmental changes along an altitudinal transect in the wettest place on Earth. Organic Geochemistry 60, 93-99, doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2013.05.004


Kennett* D.J., Breitenbach* S.F.M., Aquino V.V., Asmerom Y., Awe J., Baldini J.U.L., Bartlein P., Culleton B.J., Ebert C., Jazwa C., Macri M.J., Marwan N., Polyak V., Prufer K.M., Ridley H.E., Sodemann H., Winterhalder B., Haug G.H. (2012) Development and Disintegration of Maya Political Systems in Response to Climate Change. Science 338, 788-791 [*contributed equally], doi:10.1126/science.1226299 / in the media: Science Podcast

Breitenbach S.F.M., Rehfeld K., Goswami B., Baldini J.U.L., Ridley H.E., Kennett D., Prufer K., Aquino V.V., Asmerom Y., Polyak V.J., Cheng H., Kurths J., Marwan N. (2012) COnstructing Proxy Records from Age models (COPRA). Climate of the Past 8, 1765-1779, doi:10.5194/cp-8-1765-2012 , COPRA


Breitenbach S.F.M. & Bernasconi S. (2011) Carbon and oxygen isotope analysis of small carbonate samples (20 to 100 μg) with a GasBench II preparation device. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 25, 1-5, doi:10.1002/rcm.5052

Breitenbach S.F.M., Adkins J.F., Meyer H., Marwan N., Krishna Kumar K., Haug G.H. (2010) Strong Influence of Water Vapor Source Dynamics on Stable Isotopes in Precipitation Observed in Southern Meghalaya, NE India. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 292, 212-220, doi: doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2010.01.038

Breitenbach S.F.M., Donges J., Kharpran Daly B., Kohn T., Kohn T. (2010) Two sandstone caves on the southern edge of the Meghalaya Plateau, India. Cave and Karst Science 37, 49-52

Osipov E.Yu., Grachev M.A., Mats V.D., Khlystov O.M., Breitenbach, S. (2003) Mountain Glaciers of the Pleistocene Last Glacial Maximum in the Northwestern Barguzin Range (Northern Lake Baikal): Paleoglacial Reconstruction. Russian Geology and Geophysics 44, 652-663, link


The Caravan - an article on caves in Meghalaya, NE India, 28 June 2015

Breitenbach S. & Gebauer D. (2013) Resources on the Speleology of Uttarakhand State, India. Berliner Hoehlenkundliche Berichte 50. ISSN 1617-8572, 199 pages.