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  • Station or cluster: CryoNet Cluster
  • Type: Integrated
  • WMO ID (if any): 11146
  • Shape: polygon
  • Latitude, longitude: 47.054, 12.958
  • Altitude and/or range (m): 1500-3600
  • Landscape: Coastal
  • Year established: 1886
  • Year-round? Yes
  • Operations contact: Elke Ludewig
  • Science contact: Elke Ludewig
  • Data contact: Gerhard Schauer
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Sonnblick Integrated Site
Integrated CryoNet Cluster Information

The Sonnblick Observatory of the ZAMG (Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, Austria) is located in the Austrian Central Alps at an elevation of 3100 m a.s.l. 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.

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 onwards 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.

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 www.sonnblick.net. 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.

Stations in This Site

This site is comprised of the following stations:

Broad Research Focus

Monitoring and research are highly interlinked and depend on each other. The research focus of Sonnblick Integrated Site does not address monitoring and research separately, but intends to combine these activities. Accordingly it splits into the three major sub-spheres of the geosphere which surround the Observatory. Consequently three sub-programmes are realized: ATMON (monitoring of the atmosphere), CRYMON (monitoring of the cryosphere) and BIMON (monitoring of the Biosphere). Each sub-program is guided by an internationally accepted expert.

Integrated Approach

Sonnblick Integrated Site formulated to key research foci for the coming years:

FOCUS 1: Outstanding Events – analysis and forecast

FOCUS 2: Aerosols and Albedo and their interaction with snow cover and clouds

Beside these foci, the site has a long-term focus on the interaction of changes of high-mountain cryosphere and ecology.

Representativeness of the Cluster

Climatological representativeness was investigated in several project and is available for different variables in publications. Representativeness of aerosol and trace gases measurements was subject to several studies within the GAW-DACH cooperation (offering several publications, too).

Cluster Facilities

There is accomodation for >20 researchers at the alpine hut "Zittelhaus" which is part of the block of buildings at the summit of Sonnblick

Other Networks to Which This CryoNet Cluster Belongs

Measurement Methods Used

Data Information


Schoener W., Boehm R., I. Auer (2012). 125 years of high-mountain research at Sonnblick Observatory (Austrian Alps) - from 'the house above the clouds' to a unique research platform. Theor. Appl. Climatol. DOI 10.1007/s00704-012-0689-8

Schoener W., Boeckli L., Hausmann H., Otto J.C.,Reisenhofer S., Riedl C. S. Seren (2012). Spatial Patterns of Permafrost at Hoher Sonnblick (Austrian Alps) - Extensive Field-measurements and Modelling Approaches. Austrian Journal of Earth Sciences Volume 105/2 , 154-168

Schoener W., Auer I., Boehm R. (2009): Long term trend of snow depth at Sonnblick (Austrian Alps) and its relation to climate change. Hydrological Processes 23, 1052-1063, DOI: 10.1002/hyp.7209.

Additional Information Documents


The measurements made at Sonnblick Integrated Site are listed in the following tables. This is a combination of measurements made at the stations within the site, where the start and end years in the tables are the earliest and latest years of measurement. (Note: If End Year is blank, measurements are ongoing.)

Cryosphere Measurements

Element Variable Start Year End Year
SnowSnow water equivalent19822012
SnowSnowpack profile19822012
PermafrostSoil temperature2005
PermafrostActive layer depth2005
PermafrostThermal state2005
PermafrostDistribution (local/regional)2005
PermafrostDuration of thaw2014
PermafrostOnset of seasonal freezing2014
PermafrostDepth of seasonal freezing2014
GlacierAnnual mass balance19812012
GlacierWinter mass balance19832012
GlacierGlacial discharge2002
GlacierSurface topography18482009
GlacierFacies, snowline1983
GlacierSurface temperature2010
GlacierSurface albedo2010

Atmosphere Measurements

Element Variable Start Year End Year
MetAir temperature18862013
MetHumidity/vapour pressure18862013
MetWind speed and direction18862013
MetAir pressure18862013
MetTotal precipitation18922012
MetTrace gases1992
MetSensible and latent heat2010
RadiationDownwelling shortwave1951
RadiationUpwelling shortwave2010
RadiationDownwelling longwave2010
RadiationUpwelling longwave2010
RadiationSunshine duration1886

Measurement Notes and Other Measurements

Category Description or List
Atmosphere Sonnblick Observatory is BSRN station. Sonnblick Observatory is BSRN station.
EcologyStream ecology monitoring covering water temperature, water quality, species

Stream ecology network as part of national park "Nationalpark Hohe Tauern" established in 2011. Stream ecology network as part of national park "Nationalpark Hohe Tauern" established in 2011.

Last updated: 31 May 2017