Man and Environment, Highlands

The research group Humans and the Environment at High Altitudes investigates physical and geomorphological processes in mountain regions. Central to our research are changes in glaciers and in permafrost areas in times of climate change and their impact on the hydrological and sediment regimes, plus natural hazards.

In terms of basic research, we undertake hypothesis-led investigations into processes in mountain glaciers to improve our current understanding of the interaction between atmosphere and cryosphere on regional and local scales. This is essential for a better understanding of the impact of future climate change as well as of archives of past climate changes, for instance in Alpine ice cores. Our basic research is also dedicated to improving measuring techniques, for instance, for capturing snow cover.

Applied research is carried out in terms of natural hazard analysis and prevention, in cooperation with engineering sciences. In terms of sustainability and efficiency, we focus on snow management.

The results of glaciological long-term research are made available to the World Glacier Monitoring Service WGMS, which is active under the patronage of the Global Terrestrial Network – Glaciers (GNT-G) Initiative. GTN-G is responsible for capturing Essential Climate Variables (ECV) in support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Updated glacier inventories are also made available to the GLIMS network via NSIDC. They are part of the global Randolph Glacier Inventory. Around half of the Austrian mass balance programs are carried out at the IGF, in cooperation with the hydrographic services of the federal provinces and the Directorate General I Environment and Water Management. We also analyse and process historical glaciological data. Long-term monitoring on Jamtalferner glacier is a glaciological and ecological research of the IGF on an LTER site, where we also run an environmental education station. Jamtalferner was selected by the WMO for the Global Cryosphere Watch Observation Network.

Current projects