Bernhard Steinberger

Bernhard Steinberger

Reseacher @ Helmhotlz / Adjunct Professor @ CEED

PhD: 1996, Harvard University, USA

Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Section 2.5, Geodynamic Modelling

Mailing addresss:
D-14473 Potsdam, Germany

Physical location:
Heinrich-Mann-Allee 18/19, 5067
D-14473 Potsdam, Germany

email: bstein (at)
phone: +49 331 288 1881

Research Interests

Mantle Flow, Mantle Plumes, Geodynamics, Reference Frames, Plate Tectonics, Geoid, True Polar Wander, Planetary Interiors

Current Research

I am currently pursuing several lines of research, which are all related to the numerical modelling of the dynamics of large-scale convection in the Earth's mantle. I am trying to understand how and where slabs subducted at convergent plate margins trigger plumes at the core-mantle boundary, in particular at the margins of Large-Low Shear wave Velocity Provinces, and how the pattern of slabs and plumes thus modelled compares to seismic tomography images. My models further aim at understanding to what extent topography and uplift/subsidence are caused by mantle density anomalies and flow ("dynamic topography"), how the changes in mantle density distribution change the Earth's non-hydrostatic inertia tensor and thus cause a re-orientation of the entire Earth relative to its spin axis (true polar wander; TPW), and how mantle flow driven by subduction influences heat flow across the core-mantle boundary, which is an important boundary condition for the geodynamo. I also look at the observed vs. modelled spectral characteristics of geoid and topography, and extend this research approach to the other terrestrial planets and the moon, with the aim of finding out how their gravity field, topography and distribution of volcanism relate to each other. I perform this research in part by myself, but to a large part through numerous collaborations with colleagues worldwide. Further, I currently supervise the Ph.D. theses of Rene Gassmoeller and Elvira Mulyukova.


Bernhard Steinberger carried out his undergraduate studies mainly at Munich University, but spent one year at the University of Edinburgh. After writing his diploma thesis, Bernhard obtained the Diploma in geophysics in 1990. Subsequently, he went on to graduate studies at Harvard University, where he obtained a MS degree in Applied Mathematics in 1994, and a PhD degree in Geophysics in 1996. His PhD thesis was concerned with large-scale flow in the Earth's mantle, and how it causes motion of hotspots and true polar wander (TPW). These topics have remained the focus of his interest ever since. After completing his PhD study, Bernhard worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Academia Sinica (Taipei, Taiwan; 1996-1997) and Frankfurt University (Germany; 1997-2001), as visiting researcher at University of Colorado at Boulder (USA; 2001-2002) and Bayerisches Geoinstitut (Bayreuth, Germany; 2002 and 2004), and as a researcher at IFREE, JAMSTEC (Yokosuka, Japan; 2004-2004) and the Geological Survey of Norway (Trondheim, Norway; 2004-2009). Since 2009 Bernhard is a researcher at GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (Germany) and Professor II at the University of Oslo (Norway). Through various collaborations he aims to compare his numerical models predictions to observations. These include ages and paleolatitudes along hotspot tracks, which can be compared to model predictions of hotspot motion. Towards that goal, Steinberger also participated in the IODP cruise to the Emperor Chain. He uses models of hotspot motion and true polar wander to devise global absolute reference frames for plate motions.