Physical geography is a spatial and environmental science investigating natural and anthropogenic changes of abiotic and biotic systems and related processes at different temporal and spatial scales. Important factors are the spatial distribution and integration of involved phenomena (geographical approach), their functional linkages (geoecological approach) as well as their formation and variation through time (historical approach).

Geomorphology systematically describes the surface of the Earth and investigates processes of their formation. Major factors controlling these processes are climate and man. A distinct differentiation between climatic and anthropogenic forcing is impossible for modern environmental systems in Central Europe because both components overlap. To determine the climatic component it is necessary to use time series from Earth's history, i.e. from a time before humans began to interact with their habitat. Only then climatic and environmental information not affected by anthropogenic processes can be captured. In addition to palaeoenvironmental archives from Central Europe, modern natural archives from remote areas such as high mountains and polar regions can be analysed that are still today controlled by climate. Excellent archives for the reconstruction of palaeoenvironmental conditions are records with annually laminated sediments (varves; see Varve Image Portal) as they provide continuous records with annual to seasonal resolution.