Research

Current Projects

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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Key topics of the VAO are: (i) Atmospheric and climatic variability, (ii) Climate impact on Alpine environment, hazards and risks, (iii) Alpine water cycle and (iv) Environment and human health. In another field, work has driven the further development of infrastructure and the development of new technologies for climate and environmental research.

Atmospheric and climatic variability

The atmosphere is a complex system. It is characterised by a multitude of chemical, dynamic and radiation-related processes. Our knowledge of these processes is still incomplete. Forecasts on climate development are therefore still relatively unreliable. Improved measurement and analysis techniques will help to close this gap.

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

The impact of climate change on the biosphere and geosphere in high altitude areas is to be determined. Moreover, an investigation is carried out on the influence of solar eruptions on cosmic radiation in the Alpine region.

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Alpine water cycle

The aim of this key topic is to acquire more expertise on the Alpine water balance in order to be able to estimate the future availability of water. Another priority is to study environmental radioactivity in the Alpine region, caused by snow and rainfall.

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Environment and human health

Persistent hazardous substances, particles or pollen, and also meteorological parameters such as temperature or humidity, can have a negative impact on human health in Alpine regions. They can, for instance, lead to allergies, respiratory diseases or cardiovascular diseases. Long-term studies, analyses, studies and recommendations for appropriate action are therefore of paramount importance.

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Improving the infrastructure

Environmental sciences, particularly research at high altitudes, require very specific technological solutions. That is why development focuses on new sensor technologies or measuring platforms (e.g. UAVs etc.), hardware and software infrastructures, efficient concepts for (meta) data storage, analysis and visualisation etc.

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2018)

Selected research projects (presented on the VAO Symposium 2020)

Key research topics:

  • Atmospheric and climatic variability
  • Climate impact on Alpine environment, hazards and risks
  • Alpine water cycle
  • Environment and human health
  • Improving the infrastructure