The aim of the research project is to investigate the role of mountain glaciers in the continental water cycle, as climate indicators and in their interaction with the solid Earth. A central question is the extent to which local influences on a single glacier can be isolated in order to draw representative conclusions on the regional and supraregional behaviour of mountain glaciers.
As a high alpine environmental laboratory in the Ötztal Alps, Vernagtferner plays a prominent role in this research project. Firstly, the glacier has for decades been undergoing an extensive measuring programme of detailed investigations of the mass and energy balance by means of field measurements and remote sensing methods , which means that today the glacier is probably one of the most extensively researched glaciers in the world. Secondly, the glacier serves as a test field for new procedures and measuring methods, which are then used in other glacier regions around the world, for example in Norway, the Pamir Mountains, the Karakoram and Iceland.
In addition to the detailed investigation of the mass and energy balance of glaciers by means of field measurements and remote sensing methods, another focus is the development of a numerical model of the dynamic interactions of mountain glaciers with their environment.
The geodetic works are mainly concerned with questions of geodynamics and with reference systems as a basis for various further investigations in Earth sciences.