The legacy of his contribution stands the test of time some 14 years later
In April of 2000, the idea that offshore landslides could cause life-threatening disasters such as tsunamis was still an emerging topic. Scientists were aware that these geohazards had such potential, but there were still many questions to be answered in order to understand the mechanisms behind such occurrences.
This was when the Continental Slope Stability (COSTA) project began, a research effort funded by the European Commission through March of 2004. The overarching goal was to improve our understanding of rapid and transient changes in continental slope stability.
“One of the most important questions we had to ask was what is triggering these events? Why are certain areas of the seafloor prone to failure, while nearby areas remain undisturbed? And what is the role of gas hydrates in slope stability?” Jürgen told communications advisor Maja Sojtaric in a 2018 interview.
The project led to a special issue of Marine Geology entitled, COSTA – continental slope stability: major aims and topics, in which Jürgen served as guest editor. The issue was comprised of 20 articles written by the top scientists in the field, many of which were deeply involved in the project. It is still considered one of the most groundbreaking works of its time, and continues to be referenced to an impressive degree. The 2004 COSTA issue shares the award as one of the two best-cited special issues of Marine Geology in 2017-2018, right after winning the same award shared between three issues in 2016-2017.
Jürgen has even mentioned that this special issue was a major stepping-stone in the creation of the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrates, Environment, and Climate (CAGE). In fact, some of the contributing members to this special issue remain at CAGE today, furthering scientific advancement in this field.
Many scientists believe that their work is of great significance, but rarely does one receive such tangible confirmation of their beliefs. Congratulations to Jürgen; may his work continue to inspire scientists of future generations.