Sonnblick Observatory

STATION NAME AND OWNER The Sonnblick Observatory is owned by Sonnblick Verein and managed by the Zentralanstalt fur Meteorologie und Geodynamik in cooperation with the Sonnblick Verein. LOCATION Sonnblick Observatory is located in the Austrian Central Alps at an elevation of 3106 m a.s.l. at top of the mountain “Hoher Sonnblick”.It is situated at the alpine main divide, which is a clear climatological border. It also lies in the “Nationalpark Hohe Tauern” which covers 1856 km² of the Austrian Alps at the border between the provinces of Salzburg, Carinthia and Tyrol. Nearest villages are Heiligenblut to the South (10 km away) and Rauris to the North (20 km away). One important reason for the establishment of the Sonnblick Observatory in 1886 was the available infrastructure from gold mining activities. BIODIVERSITY AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENT The natural environment is high-alpine with year-round snow-cover, glaciers, and permafrost. Sonnblick region covers mountain ecosystems. HISTORY AND FACILITIES Sonnblick Observatory was built in 1886 at the summit of Sonnblick Mountain, motivated from the need for information on meteorology in higher altitudes of the atmosphere. Very soon other scientific disciplines became interested in the extreme location of the observatory, e.g. Nobel-prize winner V.F. Hess for his measurements of cosmic rays. In 1986, the observatory was rebuilt to a modern observatory with cable car access, electricity, and a large research platform. From that time onward investigations on atmospheric chemistry became a new research field at Sonnblick. Today, Sonnblick is a station of interdisciplinary research covering the atmosphere, the cryosphere, the biosphere, the lithosphere, and the hydrosphere. GENERAL RESEARCH AND DATABASES Research of Sonnblick is currently formulated in the research programme ENVISON. It covers three main topics (the atmosphere, the cryosphere, and the biosphere) in an extensive monitoring programme and with many research projects. Sonnblick is outstanding with respect to its long-term climate observations and studies on glacier changes. Thus, the impact of Climate Change on the cryosphere is a major research topic at Sonnblick. Since 1886, Sonnblick was also involved in many international projects on atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics. The research is described on Sonnblick Observatory cooperates with several Austrian and international universities/research institutions. Within the frame of the GAW-DACH cooperation, Sonnblick has a special partnership with the observatories Jungfraujoch (in Switzerland), Zugspitze and Hohenpeissenberg (both Germany) for common research on atmospheric processes and Climate Change (GAW: Global Atmosphere Watch in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland: D-A-CH). The Sonnblick observatory is part of the BSRN-Network as well as of WMO-GCW. HUMAN DIMENSION The nearest settlements are Rauris (c. 3000 inhabitants) in the North and Heiligenblut, at the foot of Austria’s highest peak Grossglockner (3798 m), in the South. Both villages are well known tourist centres for mountain-related summer and winter activities (all kind of skiing, hiking, climbing, cycling, etc.). The Valley of Rauris is the largest community of the Salzburg province, and has more than 420 000 bed-nights related to tourism per year. Heiligenblut has 1090 inhabitants (January 2011) and is the end point of the Grossglocker Hochalpenstra.e (high alpine road). ACCESS Access to Sonnblick Observatory is possible throughout the year either by cable car from the North (20 minutes trip from Rauris valley) or by hiking from Rauris valley from the north or from Heiligenblut from the south (about 5 hours hike from both sides). As Sonnblick is situated within the “Nationalpark Hohe Tauern” the use of helicopters is restricted. However, scientific activities usually will get permission for required helicopter flights. Because of its remote location in the Alps potential mountain hazards have to be considered during field work. Sonnblick Observatory is built together with an alpine hut “Zittelhaus” which offers additional accommodation and space.