Suldenferner weather station

As part of my ongoing studies on debris covered glaciers I sought a glacier with a debris cover in the eastern Alps so that I can visit it, and make useful measurements on a regular basis. The target I chose was Suldenferner/Vedretta di Solda, in the Ortler Group as it has an interesting debris cover, a well-studied geomorphological record and is only 2.5hrs drive away. I will write more about the glacier in a future post, but for this trip the goal was to put up an automatic weather station on the glacier, as knowing the environmental conditions is key to interpreting all other measurements I will make on the glacier.

The weather forecast was ‘Scottish’, but I was keen to get the station out as soon as possible. Fabien and Gina (who took the working photos in this post) volunteered to help me and they were brilliant despite the truly miserable weather:


The family Gutgsell and staff of the Hintergrathütte were extremely helpful, letting us use their cargo cable car and giving us a lift part way up the mountain. This meant it was just a short shuttle onto the glacier with the components of the weather station and the equipment to install it:


Below are Ginas pictures of the 3 key phases of constructing the weather station – drilling in the mast, mounting the sensors and wiring the sensors to the data logger. Mostly carried out in the driving rain at 5°C …. now I have a perverse enjoyment for fieldwork in nasty conditions, but I was most glad of Fabi and Ginas uncomplaining and able assistance.

AWS_installationThe weather station components were bought from Campbell Scientific. For people who like details, the sensors on the station are a shielded, unventilated Vaisala HMP45c temperature and humidity probe; a Young 05103 anemometer; a Kipp and Zonen CNR-1 net radiometer; a Young 52202 tipping bucket rain gauge; a Campbell Scientific SR50 sonic ranger and a Setra 278 barometer. The mast was built in-house at IMGI to our own design based on coupled removable sections of piping braced by the cross arm and the logger box – lets hope it works well and does not melt out of the ice too fast!

Many thanks to the local community and Stelvio National Park for granting permission to install this weather station. I hope it will be useful for my science, as well as the research of scientists from the Free University of Bozen, University of Padova and the Hydrographical Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. The plan is that data will be available online in the coming months for scientific and general interest.


About lindsey

Environmental scientist. I am glaciologist specialising in glacier-climate interactions to better understand the climate system. The point of this is to understand how glaciated envionments might change in the future - how the glaciers will respond and what the impact on associated water resources and hazard potential will be.
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