The Research Unit investigates the physical properties of snow and its exchange processes with the soil and atmosphere. The aim is to understand the formation of alpine natural hazards such as avalanches, floods and slope instabilities and of the interactions between the cryosphere and climate change. To this end, the unit also studies the microstructure and metamorphism of snow.
Our research is an essential basis for understanding the macro-level changes in the snowpack, as avalanche formation, water transport in the snowpack and interactions of snow with vehicles and sports equipment. This makes it possible to find out what role snow and wet or frozen ground play in the formation of natural hazards, how they influence the Earth's climate and how global climate change affects the permafrost formation.
The experiments in this unit take place in laboratories (cold labs, computer tomograph, wind tunnel) and on test areas in the field. The results flow into the development of numerical model systems that are applied in climate analysis and natural hazard warning. We regularly supply snow hydrological analyses to the responsible offices at the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) to prevent and predict flood situations during snowmelt.
The research unit works with partners within WSL, with research institutions in cryosphere research, with partners in the field of high-performance computing and model development, as well as with warning and local safety services and industry.