Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Prof. Dr. Henk Brinkhuis

Institute Director
Phone number
+31 (0)222 369 366
General Support (GES)
Institute Director

Palmtrees on Antarctica

What is the story of the Antarctic climate millions of years ago? Henk Brinkhuis took part in the drilling ship JOIDES Resolution that pulls drill cores from the ocean bottom up to 4 kilometers deep.

Bekijk ook de VPRO-aflevering van 'Beagle, in het kielzog van Darwin'.

50 miljoen jaar geleden was de Zuidpool subtropisch, met palmbomen en krokodillen. Het CO2-gehalte in de atmosfeer was toen zeven keer hoger dan nu en de gemiddelde temperatuur op aarde (van evenaar tot polen) was 34 graden. Nu is dat 15 graden. Het CO2-gehalte groeit sterk door het opstoken van fossiele brandstoffen als olie en kolen, en het kappen van regenwouden.

Als we de komende tweehonderd jaar op hetzelfde pad voortgaan, komen we op CO2-waarden uit die zo'n 40 miljoen jaar niet meer zijn voorgekomen op aarde. De gemiddelde jaartemperatuur zal dan kunnen verdubbelen en daarmee zal al het poolijs verdwijnen en de tropen onleefbaar heet worden voor mens en dier. De klimaatonderzoekers aan boord van de Beagle berekenen hoeveel tijd er nog is om in te grijpen.


  • Marine geology
  • Marine palynology
  • Paleoceanography
  • Paleoecology
  • Stratigraphy

Research interest & motivation

My professional interests and experience include marine geology, marine palynology, marine micropaleontology, geochemistry, paleoceanography, paleoecology, and paleoclimatology. I have a strong taste for Phanerozoic global change, extreme climate transitions and related biostratigraphy, evolution, paleoecology, biogeochemistry of phytoplankton, and of dinoflagellates in particular, working in/with industry and in academia. The past is the key to the future, see e.g. award winning KNAW project.

Main areas of expertise: North Sea and Nordic Seas, Arctic (IODP 302 ACEX - shipboard), various Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Ocean basins, Mediterranean incl. North Africa and former Paratethys, Caspian Sea, but also SE Asia, S America, and much of the Southern Ocean, incl the Tasman Region (ODP 189 - shipboard), and Antarctica, co-chief IODP 318 Wilkes Land Basin.

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Photos taken during the IODP 302 ACEX expedition on the North Pole.

Current positions (selection)

•    NIOZ General director
•    Professor in Marine Palynology and Paleoecology, Utrecht University
•    Co-chief scientist IODP Expedition 318 
•    Chair Netherlands IODP committee
•    Founding father (and co-director; 2004-2014) of the Urbino Summerschool in Palaeoclimatology
•    NIOZ/NL representative of various oceanographic consortia, including the European Marine Board and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO)
•    Member of various scientific advisory boards, nationally and internationally
•    Member of the KNAW


1985-1992 - University Utrecht, PhD Geology, Palaeoceanography, Marine Palynology, Micropaleontology
1978-1985 - University Utrecht, MSc, Geology


NIOZ publications

  • 2018
    Donders, T.H.; van Helmond, N.A.G.M.; Verreussel, R.; Munsterman, D.; ten Veen, J.; Speijer, R.P.; Weijers, J.W.H.; Sangiorgi, F.; Peterse, F.; Reichart, G.-J.; Sinninghe Damsté, J.S.; Lourens, L.; Kuhlmann, G.; Brinkhuis, H. (2018). Land–sea coupling of early Pleistocene glacial cycles in the southern North Sea exhibit dominant Northern Hemisphere forcing. Clim. Past 14(3): 397-411.
    Grothe, A.; Sangiorgi, F.; Brinkhuis, H.; Stoica, M.; Krijgsman, W. (2018). Migration of the dinoflagellate Galeacysta etrusca and its implications for the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Newsl. Stratigr. 51(1): 73-91.
    Sangiorgi, F.; Bijl, P.K.; Passchier, S.; Salzmann, U.; Schouten, S.; McKay, R.M.; Cody, R.D.; Pross, J.; van de Flierdt, T.; Bohaty, S.M.; Levy, R.; Williams, T.; Escutia, C.; Brinkhuis, H. (2018). Southern Ocean warming and Wilkes Land ice sheet retreat during the mid-Miocene. Nature Comm. 9(1): 317.
  • 2017
    Bijl, P.K.; Brinkhuis, H.; Egger, L.M.; Eldrett, J.S.; Frieling, J.; Grothe, A.; Houben, A.J.P.; Pross, J.; Sliwinska, K.K.; Sluijs, A. (2017). Comment on ‘Wetzeliella and its allies – the ‘hole’ story: a taxonomic revision of thePaleogene dinoflagellate subfamily Wetzelielloideae’ by Williams et al. (2015). Palynology 41(3): 423-429.
    Vellekoop, J.; Holwerda, F.; Prámparo, M.B.; Willmott, V.; Schouten, S.; Cúneo, N.R.; Scasso, R.A.; Brinkhuis, H. (2017). Climate and sea-level changes across a shallow marine Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary succession in Patagonia, Argentina. Palaeontology 60(4): 519-534.
    Vellekoop, J.; Woelders, L.; Açikalin, S.; Smit, J.; van de Schootbrugge, B.; Yilmaz, I.Ö.; Brinkhuis, H.; Speijer, R.P. (2017). Ecological response to collapse of the biological pump following the mass extinction at the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary. Biogeosciences 14(4): 885-900.
  • 2016
    van Helmond, N.A.G.M.; Sluijs, A.; Papadomanolaki, N.M.; Plint, A.G.; Gröcke, D.R.; Pearce, A.; Eldrett, J.S.; Trabucho-Alexandre, J.; Walaszczyk, I.; van de Schootbrugge, B.; Brinkhuis, H. (2016). Equatorward phytoplankton migration during a cold spell within the Late Cretaceous super-greenhouse. Biogeosciences 13: 2859–2872.
    Vellekoop, J.; Esmeray-Senlet, S.; Miller, K.G.; Browning, J.V.; Sluijs, A.; van de Schootbrugge, B.; Sinninghe Damsté, J.S.; Brinkhuis, H. (2016). Evidence for Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary bolide “impact winter” conditions from New Jersey, USA. Geology (Boulder Colo.) 44(8): 619-622.
  • 2015
    Bijl, P.K.; Brinkhuis, H. (2015). A new genus and two new species of dinoflagellate cysts from lower Eocene marine sediments of the Wilkes Land Margin, Antarctica. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 220: 88-97.
    van Helmond, N.A.G.M.; Hennekam, R.; Donders, T.H.; Bunnik, F.P.M.; de Lange, G.J.; Brinkhuis, H.; Sangiorgi, F. (2015). Marine productivity leads organic matter preservation in sapropel S1: palynological evidence from a core east of the Nile River outflow. Quat. Sci. Rev. 108: 130–138.
    van Helmond, N.A.G.M.; Sluijs, A.; Sinninghe Damsté, J.S.; Reichart, G.-J.; Voigt, S.; Erbacher, J.; Pross, J.; Brinkhuis, H. (2015). Freshwater discharge controlled deposition of Cenomanian–Turonian black shales on the NW European epicontinental shelf (Wunstorf, northern Germany). Clim. Past 11: 495-508.
    Van Hinsbergen, D.J.J.; De Groot, L.V.; Van Schaik, S.J.; Spakman, W.; Bijl, P.K.; Sluijs, A.; Langereis, C.G.; Brinkhuis, H. (2015). A Paleolatitude Calculator for Paleoclimate Studies. PLoS One 10(6): e0126946.
    Vellekoop, J.; Smit, J.; van de Schootbrugge, B.; Weijers, J.W.; Galeotti, S.; Sinninghe Damsté, J.S.; Brinkhuis, H. (2015). Palynological evidence for prolonged cooling along the Tunisian continental shelf following the K–Pg boundary impact. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 426: 216-228.
  • 2014
    Baroni, I.R.; Topper, R.P.M.; van Helmond, N.A.G.M.; Brinkhuis, H.; Slomp, C.P. (2014). Biogeochemistry of the North Atlantic during oceanic anoxic event 2: role of changes in ocean circulation and phosphorus input. Biogeosciences 11(4): 977-993.
    Bosboom, R.; Dupont-Nivet, G.; Grothe, A.; Brinkhuis, H.; Villa, G.; Mandic, O.; Stoica, M.; Huang, W.; Yang, W.; Guo, Z.; Krijgsman, W. (2014). Linking Tarim Basin sea retreat (west China) and Asian aridification in the late Eocene. Basin Res. 26(5): 621–640.
    Contreras, L.; Pross, J.; Bijl, P.K.; O'Hara, R.B.; Raine, J.I.; Sluijs, A.; Brinkhuis, H. (2014). Southern high-latitude terrestrial climate change during the Palaeocene–Eocene derived from a marine pollen record (ODP Site 1172, East Tasman Plateau). Clim. Past 10: 1401-1420.
    Grothe, A.; Sangiorgi, F; Mulders, Y.; Vasiliev, I.; Brinkhuis, H.; Stoica, M.; Krijgsman, W.; Reichart, G.-J. (2014). Black Sea desiccation during the Messinian Salinity Crisis: Fact or fiction? Geology (Boulder Colo.) 42(7): 563-566.
    Rugenstein, M.; Stocchi, P.; van der Heydt, A.; Brinkhuis, H. (2014). Emplacement of Antarctic ice sheet mass affects circumpolar ocean flow. Global Planet. Change 118: 16-24.
    Timmermans, K.R.; Brinkhuis, H. (2014). Zeewier, in: Het beste idee van 2014. pp. 69-71
    van Helmond, N.A.G.M.; Sluijs, A.; Reichart, G.J; Sinninghe Damsté, J.S.; Slomp, C.P.; Brinkhuis, H. (2014). A perturbed hydrological cycle during Oceanic Anoxic Event 2. Geology (Boulder Colo.) 42(2): 123-126.
    Vellekoop, J.; Sluijs, A.; Smit, J.; Schouten, S.; Weijers, J.W.H.; Sinninghe Damsté, J.S.; Brinkhuis, H. (2014). Rapid short-term cooling following the Chicxulub impact at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111(21): 7537-7541.
  • 2013
    Bijl, P.K.; Bendle, J.A.P.; Bohaty, S.M.; Pross, J.; Schouten, S.; Tauxe, L.; Stickley, C.E.; McKay, R.M.; Röhl, U.; Olney, M.; Sluijs, A.; Escutia, C.; Brinkhuis, H.; Expedition 318 Scientists (2013). Eocene cooling linked to early flow across the Tasmanian Gateway. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110(24): 9645-9650.
    Contreras, L.; Pross, J.; Bijl, P.K.; Koutsodendris, A.; Raine, J.I.; van de Schootbrugge, B.; Brinkhuis, H. (2013). Early to Middle Eocene vegetation dynamics at the Wilkes Land Margin (Antarctica). Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 197: 119-142.
    Stocchi, P.; Escutia, C.; Houben, A.J.P.; Vermeersen, B.L.A.; Bijl, P.K.; Brinkhuis, H.; DeConto , R.M.; Galeotti, S.; Passchier, S.; Pollard, D.; IODP Expedition 318 Scientists; Houben, A.J.P. (2013). Relative sea-level rise around East Antarctica during Oligocene glaciation. Nature Geoscience 6(5): 380-384.
  • 2012
    Pross, J.; Contreras, L.; Bijl, P.K.; Greenwood, D.R.; Bohaty, S.M.; Schouten, S.; Bendle, J.A.; Röhl, U.; Tauxe, L.; Raine, J.I.; Huck, C.E.; van de Flierdt, T.; Jamieson, S.S.R.; Stickley, C.E.; van de Schootbrugge, B.; Escutia, C.; Escutia, C.; Brinkhuis, H. (2012). Persistent near-tropical warmth on the Antarctic continent during the early Eocene epoch. Nature (Lond.) 488(7409): 73-77.
    Wade, B.S.; Houben, A.J.P.; Quaijtaal, W.; Schouten, S.; Rosenthal, Y.; Miller, K.G.; Katz, M.E.; Wright, J.D.; Brinkhuis, H. (2012). Multiproxy record of abrupt sea-surface cooling across the Eocene-Oligocene transition in the Gulf of Mexico. Geology (Boulder Colo.) 40(2): 159-162.