Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

Schneefernerhaus: The 15th Anniversary of the Environmental Research Station at Zugspitze

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By Sibylle Zavala, RCC Environmental Studies Certificate Program candidate.

Built into the rocks of the Zugspitze´s southern slope, 2,650 meters above sea level, is Germany’s highest research station. The Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus (in German “Umweltforschungsstation Schneefernerhaus, UFS”) acquired its name from the nearby glacier and comprises research station, observatory, and communication facility.

The idea for the UFS emerged in 1992 from the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In the late 1990s, the Luxushotel Schneefernerhaus was rebuilt, and in 1999 was converted into the Environmental Research Station. At the 15th anniversary ceremony, the chairman of the UFS-Science team, Prof. Dr. Michael Bittner, presented some of the work of his research team and students. Presently, climatic phenomena in the atmosphere are observed, the pollutant content of the air determined, and the effects of water steam as a greenhouse gas studied.

The UFS, within a worldwide consortium of research facilities, founded a “Virtual Institute,” for which research programs were synchronized and the facilities of the UFS provided for experiments and measurements. Prof. Dr. Siegfried Specht, Chairman of the UFS Consortium Board, explained how, in close cooperation with other worldwide facilities, the obtained data and knowledge are used to monitor global environmental agreements and to correct climate prognosis. This is interdisciplinary work right from the beginning!

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The Bavarian Minister of Environment, Ulrike Scharf, gave the ceremonial speech and promised to finance the next phase of the UFS: “The study of climate change is an essential cornerstone of Bavarian environmental policy. Good scientific findings are the foundation for regional adaptation measures to climate change. With the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus, 15 years ago we moved into new dimensions of climate research. Thanks to modern laboratories and dedicated scientists, positive impetus for the international climate policy is coming come from the research summit,” Scharf concluded.

As a member of the Bavarian committee of the German Association of Biologists (VBIO), I had the honor of attending the anniversary ceremony and talking to representatives from different political parties, NGOs, and researchers interested in climate change issues.

Take a look at the movie made as a birthday present for the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus, and see for yourselves how climate change is being addressed in the Bavarian heights!

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