Institutes & Centers

Institute for Earth Observation - Earth Observation for Environmental Monitoring

Earth Observation for Environmental Monitoring

Integrated monitoring of land surfaces for mountain environments and its dynamics

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The main objective of our work is to apply Earth Observation (EO) techniques for monitoring and understanding key environmental processes such as the water cycle or vegetation dynamics in mountain regions. We exploit satellite imagery together with climate and in-situ data through advanced methodologies and physically based models to better understand and predict processes such as snow melt, run-off, or vegetation phenology. As output, we provide highly accurate, reliable, and customised methodologies and products, which are shared with the scientific community and alpine users.

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The cryosphere research line aims at developing new methods to monitor the alpine cryosphere combining optical and radar satellite images with in situ meteorological observations and snow model simulations. The application of these new methods allows us to better understand the processes related to the cryosphere dynamics improving in this way the management of the water resources e.g., snow water equivalent estimation and the related risks e.g., permafrost deformation.

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Water resources monitoring for agriculture and hydrology

We estimate soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and combined biophysical/meteorological indices by satellite data, physical and machine learning models, and ground observations. Our aim is contributing to understand processes and develop applications related to water use, water availability and land-vegetation-atmosphere interactions in close collaboration with hydrological modelers and agricultural stakeholders.

© Eurac Research

Vegetation and Land-use Dynamics

Our research aims to monitor and understand the temporal dynamics and spatial distribution of the highly variable mountain vegetation. Specifically, we focus on mountain forests and grasslands that dominate the alpine environment. We use optical and radar data together with a variety of data from ground stations to monitor land-cover dynamics as well as bio-physical vegetation parameters at different scales to understand short and long-term impacts of climate change and land use change.

On the left is a snow-free surface. The satellite signal (red line) touches the ground and returns to the base following a linear path. Right: the snow deflects and interacts with the signal (blue line) which, in order to return to the satellite, takes a more complex route than it would have done had it not encountered the snow (dotted red line). © Eurac Research | Fabio Dalvit

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Average area that is snow covered (snow cover fraction) in winter (December to February) and spring (March to May) for the present (2000-2020) and projected changes for the future (2071-2100). Present observations are based on 20 years of satellite observations, and future conditions based on an ensemble of regional climate models, which have been bias corrected using observations. The maps have a horizontal resolution of 12km, which corresponds to the resolution of the current generation of regional climate models.© Eurac Research - Michael Matiu
Trend analysis of snow depth for all sites in South Tyrol that have more or less complete records for the last four decades (1981-2020). The change in snow depth is determined via a linear regression analysis of monthly mean snow depth by year. Negative trends in red, positive trends in blue.© Eurac Research - Michael Matiu
Our researcher is using a snow weigher tube to measure snow density and snow water equivalent in Schnalstal Valley (BZ). From this type of measurements it is possible to obtain the amount of water stored as snow, and to estimate the amount of water that will then flow downstream during the snowmelt period.© Eurac Research - Peter James Zellner/Riccardo Barella
Our Vice Head is showing the snow cover situation in the Alps based on satellite images.© Eurac Research - Annelie Bortolotti
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Daniel Frisinghelli

Basil Tufail

Research Group Projects

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Assimilating Cosmic-Ray Neutron and Remote Sensing Data for Improved Water Resource Management

Duration: September 2020 - December 2022

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Institute's Projects

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Eurac Research is a private research center based in Bolzano (South Tyrol) with researchers from a wide variety of scientific fields who come from all over the globe. Together, through scientific knowledge and research, they share the goal of shaping the future.

What we do

Our research addresses the greatest challenges facing us in the future: people need health, energy, well-functioning political and social systems and an intact environment. These are complex questions, and we are seeking the answers in the interaction between many different disciplines. In so doing, our research work embraces three major themes: regions fit for living in, diversity as a life-enhancing feature, a healthy society.

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