The Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus (2650 a.s.l.) on the mountain Zugspitze is an internationally linked center of competence for high altitude, climate and environmental research with focus on development, demonstration and operation of innovative technologies in the context of atmospheric and climate research, satellite validation, model verification, quality assurance for value added products (e.g. in the framework of GMES), analyses for the understanding of climate system processes, environmental and high altitude medicine, early detection of natural hazards, cosmic radiation and radioactivity. The UFS has the status of a global station within the Global Atmosphere Watch Programme (GAW) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It is in addition part of the NDACC program and linked with the ICSU/WMO World Data Center for Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere (WDC-RSAT), which is hosted by DFD.
The UFS is organized as a Virtual Institute under the auspices of the Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Public Health. Partners are the Free State of Bavaria, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU), the Technical University München (TUM), the Ludwig-Maximilians-University München (LMU), the University of Augsburg as well as the Federal Republic of Germany represented by the German Meteorological Service (DWD), and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). A Consortium Board, which deals with policy issues of the consortium, and a Science Team, which guarantees the scientific quality of the Virtual Institute, has been established.
DLR’s German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) monitors the upper mesosphere (ca. 80-90 km altitude) with the ground-based infrared spectrometer GRIPS. One measurement goal is the early identification of climate signals, for example for investigating the effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol. Other studies are concerned with fundamental issues such as analyzing small-scale flux systems to improve climate models, and with improving understanding of sun-earth interactions. In addition, GRIPS is in principal suited for identifying tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and explosions by analyzing infrasonic signals. This work is undertaken primarily in cooperation with Augsburg University’s Institute of Physics and the WMO.
In addition, GRIPS is the prime instrument of the global “Network for the Detection of Mesopause Change (NDMC)” founded in 2007, in which 50 measurements sites from 22 countries are involved and which DFD coordinates.
DFD is also coordinating the establishment of a national contact point for satellite validation at UFS. One focus in this context is the development of new validation methods for satellite-based data taking in to account the natural variability of the atmosphere. Together with medical staff from Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, it is coordinating the establishment of a satellite-based system to study respiratory tract health hazards connected with climate change. In addition, DFD is in charge of preparatory work to create a European association of observatories to monitor the climate and the atmosphere within the EU’s framework research program, in cooperation with UFS partners starting with an initial network of the alpine observatories.