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 humans. 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 the Earth's history, i.e. from a time before humans began to interact with their habitat. Only then can climatic and environmental information be captured that is not affected by anthropogenic processes . In addition to palaeoenvironmental archives from Central Europe, modern natural archives from remote areas such as high mountains and polar regions can be analyzed 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.