Lorenz King

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Lorenz King
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Born (1945-11-15) November 15, 1945 (age 77)
Basel, Switzerland
Alma materUniversity of Basel
  • Geographer
  • Professor

Lorenz King (born November 15, 1945 in Basel) is a German-Swiss geographer. From 1984 to 2011 he was professor of Physical Geography at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen.

The central theme of King’s studies were the effects of climate change and human activities on the environment. In Polar regions, he researched this topic in Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Preferred mountain regions were the Alps, the Greater Caucasus and the Tianshan in Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan. Since 2000 the consequences of climate change in the arid regions of MENA conclude his research.

Scientific Career

KING studied geography, geology, chemistry, botany and zoology at the University of Basel. As a student of Dietrich Barsch and Heinrich Zoller, he received his doctorate in 1973 with his thesis “Studies on the Postglacial Glacier and Vegetation History of the Susten Pass region”. A Canadian government grant as a postdoc at McGill University Montreal enabled KING to undertake extensive research trips to the Canadian Arctic and Subarctic in 1975 and 1976. Close cooperation with the leading arctic experts and geographers Link Washburn (Seattle),[1] André Cailleux (Quebec) and J. Ross Mackay (Vancouver)[2] brought him the new focus “Permafrost in Polar regions and Mountains”.

Upon his return to Germany, he was a research assistant at Heidelberg University, habilitated in 1982 for geography with a thesis on “Permafrost in Scandinavia” and was appointed Privatdozent. In autumn 1984 he accepted the chair for Physical Geography, Geomorphology and Climatology at the Justus Liebig University (JLU) in Giessen. His regional focuses were China, Caucasus and MENA. He retired in the spring of 2011. KING has been a visiting professor at the following universities: East China Normal University (Wuhan), Nanjing University (Nanjing), Dongbei University of Finance and Economics (Dalian), and Tbilisi State University (Georgia).

Research topics and major works

One focus since the 1970s has been climate change and its effects on glaciers and permafrost in polar regions and mountains. Inspired by his research stay in Canada in 1975/76, he initiated a larger multi-week expedition to the previously unexplored Borup Fiord area in 1978 and published together with Dietrich Barsch about the results of this “Heidelberg Ellesmere Island expedition”.[3] Expeditions to the Canadian Arctic followed between 1987 and 1990 resulting in the publication of papers, a topographical map 1:25,000[4] and a geomorphological map 1:12,500 of Ward Hunt Island. [5] [6]

In 1985, the new focus on "Climate Change and Floods in China" was added. Together with the flood control authorities of the province Hubei, he developed and implemented effective concepts for reducing soil erosion and flood risk in China as early as the mid-1980s.

The foundation of the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion (SGC) in 1999 brought the approval of a first SGC-cooperation group with studies on the effects of the Yangtze Three Gorges Dam. In addition to reducing the risk of flooding, the Three Gorges Dam project brought China huge measures to improve the infrastructure (rail network, highways, airports) in the previously underdeveloped central China.

This research also formed the basis for further successful SGC-cooperation groups at other universities in Germany, as Kiel, Tübingen, Darmstadt. KING also supported the start of the SuMaRiO project[7] in Xinjiang (northwest China), a multi-disciplinary project with 20 international partners headed by Markus Disse Technical University of Munich.

Some innovative works by KING are worth highlighting. In 1974, with his dissertation suggested by the pollen analyst Heinrich Zoller (University of Basel), he was able to structure the cold phases of the Little Ice Age more precisely, using pollen analysis, geomorphological and radiocarbon dating, an approach that was continued by other universities afterwards[8]. With the habilitation thesis (1983), extensive geophysical investigations (seismics refraction, electrical resistivity tomography, long-term soil temperature measurements) were carried out in four regions of Scandinavia in search of mountain permafrost. Building on this, the widespread occurrence of permafrost in all higher mountain areas of Scandinavia was postulated as a model. This was confirmed for Scandinavia during the 1988 permafrost conference and the EU project PACE (1998-2003).

Committee activity

After his return from Canada in 1976, KING was a founding member of the German Society for Canadian Studies [1]. In 1983, he was a founding member of the International Permafrost Association (IPA). He then headed the German National Permafrost Committee of the IPA until 2011 and reported over 20 years as a representative of Germany in the IPA Council and the IPA newsletter “Frozen Ground” about the German national activities. He was managing director of the Institute of Geography, Dean of the faculty of Earth Science’s and Geography, and member of the directorate of the Center for International Development and Environmental Research (ZEU) at the University of Giessen. He was on the editorial board of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes (PPP). He participated in the establishment of the "Central Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences" in Bishkek and was on the advisory board of various other research projects. In the EU project Permafrost and Climate in Europe (PACE), he led Work Package-1 (European Network of Monitored Permafrost Boreholes).

He was the representative for European university cooperations with south Caucasus countries from 2001 to 2011.

Publications (selection)

Lorenz King et al.: Das Dreischluchtenprojekt am Yangtze – Giessener Forschergruppe untersucht Auswirkungen des weltgrößten Staudammprojektes. – Spiegel der Forschung 19/1, pp. 38-45, 2002. http://geb.uni-giessen.de/geb/volltexte/2004/1480/pdf/SdF-2002-1f1.pdf

Publications as editor and co-author

Nana Bolashvili, Andreas Dittmann, Lorenz King, Vazha Neidze: National Atlas of Georgia, 2018. 138 pages, 2018. ISBN 978-3-515-12057-9. http://www.steiner-verlag.de/titel/9783515120579.html

Lorenz King & Giorgi Khubua: Georgia in Transition – Experiences and Perspectives. – Schriften zur Internationalen Entwicklungs- und Umweltforschung. Peter Lang Verlag, 321 pages, 2009. ISBN 978-3-631-58977-9.

Lorenz King: Karl Ernst von Baer, Materialien zur Kenntniss des unvergänglichen Boden-Eises in Sibirien. Unveröffentliches Typoskript von 1843 und weltweit erste Dauerfrostbodenkunde. Introduction by Erki Tammiksaar. - Berichte und Arbeiten aus der Universitätsbibliothek und dem Universitätsarchiv Giessen, Nr. 51, 66+234 pages, 2001. ISBN 3-9808042-0-8. http://geb.uni-giessen.de/geb/volltexte/2006/3649/pdf/BaerMaterialien-2001.pdf. (Original has colour maps and pictures)

Lorenz King und Elisabeth Schmitt (Hrsg.): Andrew Goudie: Physische Geographie – eine Einführung. Translation: Jürg Rohner and Peter Wittmann, 4th edition. - Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Berlin, Oxford, 487 pages, 2002. ISBN 3-8274-1202-1.


  1. http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic60-2-212.pdf
  2. https://www.geog.ubc.ca/professor-emeritus-john-ross-mackay-1915-2014/
  3. Dietrich Barsch & Lorenz King (Hrsg.): Results of the Heidelberg Ellesmere Island Expedition. (with English summaries and figure captions). - Heidelberger Geographische Arbeiten 69, 573 pages + 2 maps 1:25.000, 1981. ISBN 3-88570-069-7.
  4. Topographical map Ward-Hunt-Karte, scale 1:25.000 by G.Hell and W.Zick, Karlsruhe University, Kanarktis-2 expedition 1988
  5. Geomorphological map Ward Hunt Island, scale 1:12,500, by G.Hell and W.Zick, Karlsruhe University, Kanarktis-2 expedition 1988
  6. Map Legend of Geomorphological map Ward Hunt Island, by R. Lehmann, Kanarktis-2 expedition 1988
  7. https://www.sumario.de/project.html
  8. G. Furrer, M.Maisch and C.Burga: Overview on the late and post-glacial history of the climate, glaciers and vegetation in Graubünden. - In: Dissertationes Botanicae 72 (Festschrift Welten), 1984.

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