Institutes & Centers

Institute for Earth Observation - Earth Observation for Environmental Monitoring

Earth Observation for Environmental Monitoring

  • Deutsch
  • English
  • Italiano

The main objective of our work is to apply Earth Observation (EO) techniques to monitor and understand key environmental processes such as water cycles or vegetation dynamics in mountain regions. We exploit satellite imagery in combination with climate and in-situ data using advanced methodologies and physically based models to better understand and predict processes such as snow melt, run-off, or vegetation phenology. The results enable us to provide highly accurate, reliable, and customized methodologies and products, which are shared with the scientific community and users of Alpine services.

© Eurac Research


The cryosphere research line aims at developing new methods to monitor the alpine cryosphere by 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 cryosphere dynamics thus improving the management of the water resources e.g., snow water equivalent estimation and the related risks e.g., permafrost deformation.

© Eurac Research

Water resources monitoring for agriculture and hydrology

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

© Eurac Research

Vegetation and Land-use Dynamics

Our research aims to monitor and understand the temporal dynamics and spatial distribution of highly variable mountain vegetation. Specifically, we focus on the 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 in order to understand short and long-term impacts of climate 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

1 - 5
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 measuring snow depth on the field in Schnalstal Valley (BZ), using a snow probe © Eurac Research - Peter James Zellner/Riccardo Barella
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
On November 15, 2022, the winners of the Eureka! contest, organized by Mille e una Scienza Festival, spent a few hours with Claudia Notarnicola, who explained to them the usefulness of satellite imagery in relation to the environment and climate change© Eurac Research - Matthias Mühlberger
1 - 13

News & Events

1 - 1
Interview on the decline of mountain snow cover

Interview on the decline of mountain snow cover

Research Group Projects

1 - 9

Snow CCI+ Phase 2

CCI+ Phase 2 - New ECVs / Snow (ESA Climate Change Initiative on the essential climate variable ...

Duration: - Funding: ESA (International organisations ...

view all

Earth Observation for Environmental Monitoring Projects