Current projects

An approach for prospective forecasting of rock slope failure time

Rock slope failures globally account for most single-event landslide disasters. Climatic changes in mountain areas boost failure activity and the demand for reliable failure time forecasts. State-of-the-art prediction models are often confused with high-frequency slope deformation data. Prospectively, they provide ambiguous forecasts as data filtering, starting point definition and forecast uncertainty remain arbitrary. Here, we develop a prospective failure time forecast model that applies multiple filtering and inverse velocity percentiles to minimize subjective decisions (…)

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You can also find an easy-to-understand introduction to the topic in the blog post "Behind the paper":

Hydroxyl airglow observations for investigating atmospheric dynamics: results and challenges

Measurements of hydroxyl (OH*) airglow intensity are a straightforward and cost-efficient method which allows the derivation of information about the climate and dynamics of the upper mesosphere/lower thermosphere (UMLT) on different spatiotemporal scales during darkness. In this article, it is summarized why an OH* airglow layer exists, how atmospheric dynamics influence it and how temperature can be derived from OH* airglow measurements. It is provided an overview of the scientific results regarding atmospheric dynamics (mainly gravity waves (GWs) but also planetary waves (PWs) and infrasound) achieved with OH* airglow measurements. Additionally, the results from the very few available airborne case studies using OH* airglow instruments are summarized.

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Book release: Environmental Reserach Station

Image of the cover of the book

Since over 20 years reserachers are working together on important research tasks at the Environmental Research station Schneefernerhaus. The studies are now summarized in an ellaborate report called: Science at the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus | Zugspitze.

The book includes 22 articles from over 50 different authors and is available in english here (PDF, English)

Influence of air quality on the expected burden on the health care system in the event of pandemics

The new project „Influence of air quality on the expected burden on the health care system in the event of pandemics“, funded by the German Research Association , DFG, is using the Bioclimatic Information System, BioCliS, - a service of VAO-AlpEnDAC.
The three-year project will start in autumn 2021. The main objective is to better understand the effect of low air quality on the human health vulnerability against pandemics, influence and cardiovascular diseases.

Project partners are the University Augsburg, Germany; Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany; German Aerospace Center, Cologne and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

Contact: PD Dr. Sabine Wüst (German Aerospace Center)

Detector measures cosmic rays on the Zugspitze

Measurement hut at the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus, Image 1/3, Credit: © Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus / Till Rehm

Measurement hut at the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus
Image 1/3, Credit: © Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus / Till Rehm

Timepix3 was developed to detect elementary particles at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). It was then carried up to the International Space Station (ISS), where it measures the radiation dose to which astronauts and equipment are exposed. Most recently, Timepix3 has been used on the Zugspitze. Its task is to simultaneously detect the secondary cosmic rays and radon decay products. This radioactive noble gas occurs naturally in rocks and eventually reaches the surface. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) installed the Timepix3 at the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus in cooperation with the universities of Augsburg and Prague.

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Stakeholders for the new ESA project AlpAirEO

This is to inform you that as an outcome of the VAO-Symposium in Grenoble where we had planning sessions for different topics in order to prepare proposals to be submitted to ESA, the project AlpAirEO is now granted by the European Space Agency with two years funding to develop a service to promote Air Quality and Health in the Alpine Region in the context of the initiative "EO science for Society".

Scope of the project is to use remote sensing state-of-the-art technology to deliver innovative science and information services to support expert and non-expert stakeholders and, thereby, help to improve the general quality of life in the Alps. This will be done by the enhancement of the already existing interactive IT platform BioClis, hosted on VAO-AlpEnDAC, capable of providing information of the current status and forecast of air quality and the associated increased health risk at local level.

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Variability of the Brunt–Väisälä frequency at the OH-airglow layer height at low and midlatitudes

Airglow spectrometers, as they are operated within the Network for the Detection of Mesospheric Change (NDMC), for example, allow the derivation of rotational temperatures which are equivalent to the kinetic temperature, local thermodynamic equilibrium provided. Temperature variations at the height of the airglow layer are, amongst others, caused by gravity waves. However, airglow spectrometers do not deliver vertically resolved temperature information. This is an obstacle for the calculation of the density of gravity wave potential energy from these measurements.

NO2 in the Alps as observed by Sentinel-5p/TROPOMI - Mean from January to June 2019

The new satellite Sentinel-5P reveals detailed insights into the Alpine environment: with a spatial resolution of 3.5 to 5.5 km, its instrument TROPOMI has unprecedented capabilities for daily global air pollution monitoring. To derive this mean distribution of tropospheric NO2 from January to June 2019, data from more than 400 satellite overpasses have been merged. The NO2 is depicted in tropospheric vertical column densities in [mol/m2]. It results from anthropogenic combustion processes. Due to its short lifetime it is bound to its emission sources.

The Alpine region is the living environment for nearly 14 million people and the destination for approximately 120 million tourists each year. Like nowhere else in Europe, urban agglomerations, settlements, industry and traffic are predominantly concentrated and competing in valleys. This hinders ventilation, and causes a congestion of air pollutants and increased health risks. By contrast the elevated regions are characterised by clean air. Increased pollution levels can be found in the highly populated Po Valley and the Greater Munich Area. Among the Alpine valleys sticking out, are the Brenner with Bozen, the Inn Valley with Innsbruck and the Rhone Valley with Genève and Marseille.

NO2 in the Alps observed by Sentinel-5P

Surf Zone at the Border to Outer Space: Where Gravity Waves break

Waves not only influence the dynamics of water in the ocean but also of air in the atmosphere. So-called gravity waves are to be found especially in the upper mesosphere / lower thermosphere at about 80 to 100 kilometres altitude.

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Further projects

Atmospheric and climatic variability

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Climate impact on Alpine environment, hazards and risks

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Alpine water cycle

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Environment and human health

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Improving the infrastructure

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)