GCOS Switzerland projects

On 6 June 2008, Switzerland's Federal Council approved long-term Swiss government funding for the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) from 2010 onwards. MeteoSwiss allocates such subsidies to third parties in the framework of GCOS, thereby supporting the rollout of the international GCOS Implementation Plan.


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In the framework of GCOS Switzerland, MeteoSwiss compiles inventories of the main climate observations and international data and calibration centres in Switzerland (also see: National Climate Observing System). This involves identifying time series and centres whose operation or continued operation is at risk due to a lack of alternative funding. MeteoSwiss's core mission in the framework of GCOS Switzerland is to ensure the long-term continued operation of these centres and time series.

Furthermore, again in the framework of GCOS Switzerland, MeteoSwiss provides temporary funding to projects playing a significant role in the rollout of the GCOS Implementation Plan and the GCOS Switzerland Strategy.

Information for agreement partners

Continued operation of key climate time series and international centres

Glacier monitoring

Glacier monitoring is very important for Switzerland as it serves as the basis for studies on the effects of climate change, the water balance and protection against natural hazards. The Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland (GLAMOS) network pursues the goal of long-term and regional monitoring of Switzerland's glaciers. GLAMOS receives financial support from the Federal Office for the Environment, the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss) in the framework of GCOS Switzerland, and the Swiss Academy of Sciences and is operated by ETH Zurich, the University of Fribourg and the University of Zurich.

Period Partner organisation Annual volume
Since 2016

ETH Zurich
University of Fribourg
University of Zurich

CHF 70‘000.-

Permafrost monitoring

The systematic documentation and monitoring of mountain permafrost is increasingly important as an indicator of climate change and a natural-hazard trigger. The aim of the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network (PERMOS) is to systematically monitor mountain permafrost in Switzerland. PERMOS receives financial support from the Federal Office for the Environment, MeteoSwiss in the framework of GCOS Switzerland, and the Swiss Academy of Sciences. It is operated by the PERMOS partner organisations, the universities of Fribourg, Zurich and Lausanne, ETH Zurich, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) and the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF).

Period Partner organisation Annual volume
Since 2011

University of Fribourg
University of Zurich
University of Lausanne
ETH Zurich

CHF 110‘000.-

Monitoring of snow water equivalent

As well as playing a crucial role as a climate factor, snow cover is a key economic parameter for tourism, water management, hydropower, agriculture and transport. Snow water equivalent (SWE) refers to the amount of water (in millimetres) contained in a snowpack, which also corresponds to the weight of the snowpack (in kg/m²).

SWE measurements in the Wägital

The SWE time series in the Wägital valley is the world's longest-standing for any catchment area, dating back to 1943. Furthermore, totaliser measurements have been taken in this area since 1925/1926. With a view to ensuring that these time series continue to be collected, MeteoSwiss has been supporting the gathering of these data since 2010 in the framework of GCOS Switzerland. The monitoring network, originally managed by ETH Zurich, has been operated by the company Meteodat GmbH since 1998.

Period Partner organisation Annual volume
Since 2010

Meteodat GmbH

CHF 13‘500.-

Snow water equivalent measurements in the Swiss Alps

The snow stations in the Swiss Alps provide a data source unique in its quality, length and coverage regarding the spatio-temporal variability of the snowpack in the Alpine region. The WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) is maintaining long-term snow water equivalent (SWE) time series, which among others are used for snow load codes and hydrological forecasting. As there was some doubt surrounding the future of these measurements, MeteoSwiss decided to provide financial support in the framework of GCOS Switzerland for 11 of these stations.

Period Partner organisation Annual volume
Since 2016


CHF 75‘000.-


The data that historical documents provide about past weather and climate observations are a key resource for climate research. In the Euro-Climhist database, daily weather recordings (observations and instrumental measurements), news on natural disasters and extreme weather events and phenological data from the Middle Ages to the present day are logged, stored, analysed and made available to researchers. In a bid to ensure the long-term operation, development and expansion of Euro-Climhist at the University of Bern's Institute of History, MeteoSwiss has been providing support for this database since 2010 in the framework of GCOS Switzerland.

Period Partner organisation Annual volume
Since 2010

University of Bern

CHF 77‘000.-

World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS)

Global glacier monitoring is of crucial importance for climate observation. Glaciers are key climate indicators and play a central role in the regional water balance and changes in global sea levels. As an international data centre, the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), based at the University of Zurich's Department of Geography, collects standardised observations on glacier fluctuations and inventories and makes them available to researchers. MeteoSwiss has been providing financial support for the operation of the WGMS since 2010, in the framework of GCOS Switzerland.

Period Partner organisation Annual volume
Since 2010

University of Zurich

CHF 350‘000.-

Global Energy Balance Archive (GEBA)

The Global Energy Balance Archive (GEBA) is a database providing a central repository of information from around the world about energy fluxes measured at the Earth's surface. GEBA data are used in many studies, for example to quantify the global energy balance, validate climate models and satellite datasets and analyse changes in energy fluxes in the context of global climate change. They are also used in the solar power, agriculture and water management sectors. The operation of GEBA at ETH Zurich has been supported since 2019 by MeteoSwiss in the framework of GCOS Switzerland.

Period Partner organisation Annual volume
Since 2019

ETH Zurich

CHF 62‘000.-

Projects rolling out the GCOS Implementation Plan

Support is currently being provided to the following projects rolling out the GCOS Implementation Plan and the GCOS Switzerland Strategy:

Feedbacks between vegetation, carbon, energy, and water cycles in the urban environment (Acronym: UrbaNature)

Urban landscapes create unique meteorological and climatological environments that are particularly vulnerable to weather extremes such as heatwaves and storms. Moreover, cities are responsible for approximately 70% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, transforming cities to become sustainable, resilient and climate-neutral requires a better understanding of the urban system. Using Basel and Zurich as pilot cities, the project UrbaNature investigates how vegetation affects energy, water and carbon dynamics in the urban environment by combining in-situ plant ecophysiological measurements, urban micrometeorological observations, remote sensing and advanced process modelling. The project will create new knowledge on how plants respond and adapt to the urban environment and on the dynamics of ecophysiological processes that affect urban climate. Furthermore, the project will develop new methods and tools for remote sensing of urban biotic and abiotic characteristics and for urban climate modelling with an advanced representation of the interactions between urban vegetation and the built environment.

Period Partner organisation Total volume

University of Basel
ETH Zurich
University of Zurich

CHF 1’100’750.-

SwissPhenocam: country-scale automated phenology tracking from imagery

The SwissPhenocam project is designed to close a critical observational gap of Essential Climate Variables of GCOS with a truly transdisciplinary approach, using in situ, webcam and remote sensing data. Its objective is to develop and implement an automated phenology monitoring tool that will deliver added-value climate services regarding plant phenological responses to ongoing climate change and the carbon and water cycles. At the core of our method will be modern deep learning methodology, to automate data analysis and provide an easy-to-use interface for expert analysis, which will also allow for a web-based, effective climate communication tool to society. Based on multi-modal data sets with Roundshot and satellite imagery as well as observations and growth information, we will improve phenology models for Switzerland, map and define phenoregions, use phenological data to predict changes in ecosystem states and services and develop real time indicators for ecosystem stress and stress recovery.

Period Partner organisation Total volume

University of Zurich

*Note that MeteoSwiss receives no project funding.
CHF 1'060'190.-

The Swiss H2O Hub: High-quality water vapor measurements from ground to space

Water vapor (H2O) is an essential climate variable, and it plays a key role in many atmospheric processes in the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere. Tropospheric H2O has the strongest greenhouse effect, and, although it is largely self-regulated by cloud formation and precipitation, it increases steadily due to the warming of tropospheric air. In addition, an increase of stratospheric H2O, caused by methane oxidation or a warming tropopause, is a major driver of the global surface temperature on decadal time scales. Measurement campaigns in Switzerland will be conducted to derive H2O profiles from ground to space by combining the lidar and the two balloon-borne instruments PCFH and ALBATROSS, complemented by RS41 radiosondes in Payerne and the microwave radiometer in Zimmerwald. We will establish harmonized time series to investigate trends and interannual differences in upper tropospheric and stratospheric H2O, including a study of a possible signature of the Hunga-Tonga eruption in the middle atmosphere.

Period Partner organisation Total volume

University of Bern
ETH Zurich

*Note that MeteoSwiss receives no project funding.
CHF 1’059’070.-

Tapping the potential of one decade of annual repeat altimetry to study glacial and periglacial processes (TapRep)

We focus on a data set of very high-resolution aerial photographs and digital elevation models available at yearly intervals since 2012. This worldwide unique data set covers about 100 Swiss glaciers and proglacial areas. The project will develop around four main strands, related to topics encompassing glaciological and periglacial research, as well as data visualization for public outreach. We will (1) advance the extrapolation of glacier mass balance from local measurements to the regional scale, (2) assess the abundance and formation of surface-collapse features on Alpine glacier tongues, (3) quantify periglacial sediment dynamics at the multi-catchment scale, and (4) perform 3D visualization of annual aerial imagery and terrain models. These interdisciplinary pathways will establish new links within the academic community, thus ultimately contributing to strengthening environmental monitoring in Switzerland.

Period Partner organisation Total volume

ETH Zurich
University of Lausanne
University of Zurich

CHF 278‘000.-

Archiving and publication of Specola Solar Ticinese sunspot activity recordings

In climatology, sunspot activity recordings are used for the long-term reconstruction of solar radiation, as the number of sunspots correlates closely with total solar radiation. The Specola Solare Ticinese solar observatory has systematically monitored sunspots since its establishment by ETH Zurich in 1957. Since 1981, its operations have been supported by a local association set up for this purpose called the Associazione Specola Solare Ticinese (ASST). In the context of this project, financial support is provided for collaboration between the ETH Zurich Library and ASST to ensure the long-term archiving, digitisation and publication of historical sunspot images and data.

Period Partner organisation Total volume

ETH Zurich

CHF 139‘000.-

Rock Glacier Inventories and Kinematics (RGIK)

The project Rock Glacier Inventories and Kinematics (RGIK) intends to lay the foundation for an international service dedicated to the long-term observation of rock glaciers on a global scale. These debris landforms found in most mountain ranges are generated by the former or current creep of permafrost. They are commonly used as visual indicators for permafrost occurrence and the variations of their velocity (kinematics) reveal indirect information on the evolution of the ground thermal conditions and by extension on the impact of climate change. In collaboration with an Action Group of the International Permafrost Association, this project aims to contribute to the development of widely accepted standard guidelines for inventorying rock glaciers and generating kinematic time series in a climate-oriented perspective. This project further seeks to promote the integration of rock glacier kinematics as a new associated parameter to Essential Climate Variable (ECV) Permafrost within the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS).

Period Partner organisation Total volume

University of Fribourg

CHF 160‘000

Discovering forgotten glacier images in a new glance (DEFOGGING)

Glacier retreat is one of the most visible signs of ongoing climate change, and repeated glacier photography is possibly one of the most immediate ways to visualize and communicate the alarming rate of this change. This project sets out to guarantee long-term accessibility to a unique record of glacier photographs that have been collected over the years. Starting from a pool of over 50,000 images available at the project’s host institution, the aim is to integrate these historic documents in the Image Archive of the ETH Library. The images will be indexed, digitised and georeferenced with the help of volunteers, and made accessible through ETH’s E-Pics platform. This will ensure long-term accessibility to a unique set of observations, thus creating added value for both researchers and the general public.

Period Partner organisation Total volume

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest,
Snow and Landscape Research WSL

CHF 180‘000

Completed projects

Extending the Calibration Traceability of Longwave Radiation Time-Series (ExTrac)

The Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) is one of several international networks to coordinate the measurement and archiving of radiation data. On a national level, MeteoSwiss conducts radiation measurements at four stations following similar BSRN guidelines. Longwave radiation measurements are conducted with pyrgeometers traceable to the World Infrared Standard Group (WISG) at PMOD/WRC, Davos. The following project developed methods for the traceability of long-wave radiation measurements to all data stored in the BSRN archive. The project activities form the basis for a comprehensive traceability of the long-wave radiation data of the worldwide BSRN network to the International System of Units (SI).

Long Swiss Meteorological Series

The project “Long Swiss Meteorological Series” provided revised as well as new long Swiss meteorological time series that reach back beyond the start of the official Swiss network in 1863.The two only previously available long series, Geneva and Basel, were complemented by digitising additional past segments. Long gaps that were hitherto filled with data from stations that are relatively far away could now partly be filled with data from the cities. Moreover, both series rely largely on few, long segments, whereas there are many further segments in both cases, which help to improve or confirm the quality of the records and support a better homogenisation. In addition to Geneva and Basel, the existing record from the Gr. St. Bernard was back-extended by two years. In addition, the project also provided new, long series. The two most important ones are those from Zurich and Bern, providing temperature records back to 1756 and 1760, respectively (the Zurich series reaches even back to 1708 for pressure and precipitation, though with long gaps). Both are composed of a larger number (17 and 19, respectively) of segments. Finally, the project also contributed to the digitisation and documentation of long meteorological series from Marschlins (1782-1863), Schaffhausen (1794-1845), Aarau (1807-1865), Delémont (1801-1832), Vevey (1805-1840), and St. Gallen (1812-1853) as well as many shorter records. All data have been submitted to the in-situ database of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, MeteoSwiss, and EURO-CLIMHIST. Homogenisation was undertaken for the temperature records from Zurich, Bern, Basel, and Geneva, yielding new and revised, long Swiss records.

Operational near-real-time glacier monitoring

The 'Operational near-real-time glacier monitoring' project by WSL and in collaboration with GLAMOS aimed to provide observation- and model-based information on the state of Swiss glaciers, with a particular focus on the glaciological mass balance. By providing near-real-time information, the project sought to satisfy the need for knowledge expressed by the media and public each year, especially in the summer months. The project brought together the key aspects of observation, modelling and communication.

Improving our understanding and scientific use of two essential climate variables (soil moisture and evaporation) – SMiLE-ECV-CH project

Soil moisture and evaporation from land are two essential climate variables (ECVs) defined by GCOS. They affect the exchange of moisture and energy with the atmosphere and play a crucial role in the development of the summer droughts and heatwaves that are a feature of our current climate and are likely to become more pronounced in future. The SMiLE-ECV-CH project produced an assessment of the potential provided by soil moisture and evaporation observations in Switzerland, focusing on four main topics: performing quality control; determining the land-water balance in Switzerland; investigating the suitability of satellite measurements of the variables; and examining land-atmosphere interactions in dry and wet periods.

Operational Monitoring of the Rain Rate by Ground-based Microwave Radiometry in Switzerland

The project applied a new method for estimating the rain rate, which can be derived from observations of microwave radiometers in Bern, Payerne and Schaffhausen. The project worked in close cooperation with MeteoSwiss, which runs the operation of the HATPRO radiometers in Payerne and Schaffhausen. The time series of the rain rate for the TROWARA radiometer are established in Bern (since 2004) and for the HATPRO radiometers in Payerne and Schaffhausen (since 2007) and were compared with coinciding measurements of conventional rain gauges. The time series were harmonized to detect possible trends in the rainfall rate. The algorithm for the rain rate was implemented for the operational data processing of the rain rate for the three microwave radiometers, thus enabling a monitoring of the rain rate in near real-time. Furthermore, a HATPRO radiometer at the University of Bern was set up to perform further comparisons between different measurement techniques.

Hundred years of Swiss glacier changes from historical terrestrial images

Switzerland stands out as one of the countries with the longest records of glacier changes, and long-term observations are crucial in order to understand the impact of glacier retreat on water resources or hydropower production. Despite this importance, only a few dozen of glaciers have observations extending further back than three decades.
This project exploited a unique archive of 58,000 terrestrial images (TerrA) acquired by swisstopo from 1916 until 1947 for mapping purposes. An automated workflow based on modern photogrammetry techniques was developed in order to document glacier volume changes at a near centennial scale. The methodology was applied to about 20,000 images to provide glacier surface elevation for 45% of all Swiss glaciers for circa 1931.
A Swiss-wide glacier volume loss of 0.73 ± 0.08 km3 a−1 and an area reduction of 5.9 ± 0.8 km2 a−1 between 1931 and 2016 was estimated. This translates to a halving of glacier volume compared to 2016, and a third’s reduction in areal cover. The results indicate a strong spatial variability in glacier thinning, with glaciers in the north east losing mass twice as rapidly as in the south west of Switzerland.

Alpine Water Extent and Lake Level Monitoring in Switzerland (AlpineWELLS)

By 2100, due to global warming, the volume of Swiss glaciers will decrease by about 90% since 1985. This represents a massive change in the Alpine region, leading to the formation of several hundred new mountain lakes in previously glaciated areas. In the framework of the AlpineWELLS project, Eawag generated an inventory of glacial lakes for Switzerland and reconstructed the genesis of these lakes back to the 19th century. This inventory incorporates an analysis of glacier lake evolution stages since the Little Ice Age using historical glacier boundaries. The project also proposed a monitoring strategy for glacial lakes, including ground and remote measurements of temperature, turbidity and water-leaving reflectance. Furthermore, bathymetry measurements were carried out to estimate water volume as key natural hazard aspect. These activities are continued beyond the end of AlpineWELLS in the scope of projects supported by the Swiss Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Harnessing the Power of Crowdsourcing to tackle 21st century mountain observation challenges (POC21)

The project addressed high-mountain challenges requiring the provision of actionable information on Alpine changes. Swiss national monitoring programmes for glaciers and permafrost, GLAMOS and PERMOS, play a fundamental role in the provision of this information, however often lack sufficient real-time in-situ information to develop timely monitoring products. In the framework of the project, MountaiNow – a collaborative platform for sharing mountain observations in real-time - explored the potential of modern observation methods to fill this information gap, and in particular evaluating the power of crowdsourcing for long-term mountain monitoring.

Compiling historical glacier data

Glaciological measurements in Switzerland go back a long way. Some of the time series were started in the 19th century and are among the world's longest glaciological series. To ensure the quality and interpretability of long data series, it is indispensable that historical glacier data are stored and documented appropriately. While today the collected information contains detailed metadata, for 20th century measurements these are only available to a limited extent, if at all. Accurate documentation is essential to ensure a consistent re-evaluation of the time series with proper quality control as well as to estimate uncertainties.

This project processed all direct measurements of the mass balance of Swiss glaciers since the start of the 20th century in full detail. The original observations were tracked down in the archives and the various types of information, such as measurement techniques, underlying assumptions, and the exact time and date of field surveys, were compiled in a detailed dataset. These new data and metadata are stored in an extensive database, which enables a more detailed and carefully documented re-evaluation of long-term time series on glacier mass balance, making them of greater use for global climate monitoring.

The Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Precision Filter Radiometer Network

Aerosol optical depth (AOD) is an essential climate variable of great importance to climate and atmospheric research, as it is one of the main parameters determining the Earth's radiative forcing. AOD is measured using precision filter radiometers (PFRs), thereby contributing to the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) programme. The World Aerosol Optical Depth Research and Calibration Centre (WORCC) of the Physical Meteorological Observatory in Davos (PMOD) maintains the PFR standard for measuring AOD. Therefore, this project run by the PMOD/WRC (World Radiation Centre) concluded on harmonization, re-evaluation and improvement of the GAW-PFR AOD time series.

GNSS sensors’ suitability for the automated operational measurement of snow water equivalent in the Swiss Alps

Snow is an essential climate variable that is characterised not only by its depth but also by snow water equivalent (SWE). This is traditionally determined by weighing a snow sample. Recent studies have shown that the SWE can also be worked out using signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). The SWE can be deduced from the difference in signal characteristics that GNSS receivers record above and below the snowpack. In the framework of this project, the SLF in collaboration with its partners assessed the suitability of the automated operational measurement of SWE within the Swiss observational network for SWE.

Providing Data Provision for a Sensitivity Analysis of Snow Time Series

Like all climate series, snow time series covering many years are affected by changes in measuring locations, observers and measurements techniques. Such non-climate changes may have an influence on any trends that are identified. The project Providing data provision for a sensitivity analysis of snow time series collected data for a sensitivity analysis of snow measurements with respect to non-climate effects. Moreover, thorough metadata compilation allowed WSL SLF to collect information on the history of snow fall and snow depth measurement practices in Switzerland and other countries.

Integrated Lake Ice Monitoring and Generation of Sustainable, Reliable, Long Time Series

Freezing and thawing data recordings for lakes provide valuable insights into the regional climate. However, a lake's size and geographic location may mean that not all observation methods are equally suited to the task. Based on a previous feasibility study on lake ice, this project run by the ETH Zurich integrated various sensors and methodologies to operationally obtain systematic and reliable observations of lake ice.

Integrated Monitoring of Ice in Selected Swiss Lakes

Freezing and thawing data recordings for lakes provide valuable insights into the regional climate and help with the development of hydrological models. However, a lake's size and geographic location may mean that not all observation methods are equally suited to the task. This means that a careful evaluation of the available methods is needed. Therefore, MeteoSwiss supported a feasibility study in the framework of GCOS Switzerland that compared the effectiveness of satellite images, webcams and in-situ measurements in monitoring lake ice. This project was conducted by ETH Zurich, the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag).

Quality analysis and classification of Swiss phenological series

Plant growth and development are substantially affected by climate conditions. It follows that phenological observations are key climate indicators. Across Switzerland, a total of 12 stations belonging to the phenology network were surveyed in the framework of GCOS Switzerland. In this project, the University of Bern's Institute of Geography contributed to GCOS Switzerland by examining this selection of the most valuable phenological stations and series.

Processing and standardising historical time series documenting length variation in Swiss glaciers

In the context of glacier observation since the 1880s, the change in the glacier tongue position was systematically documented, and the length variation was worked out from this. However, the length variation data were not georeferenced and were often incomplete. Therefore, this project run by ETH Zurich systematically processed and standardised the historical length variation time series.

Development of a communications strategy for the Swiss cryospheric monitoring networks

The Swiss cryospheric observation network covers glaciers, snow and permafrost and is an integral part of long-term climate monitoring in the Swiss Alps. Promoting public awareness of the importance of climate observation is a key factor that will help to safeguard the climate time series over the long term. Therefore, this project run by the University of Fribourg brought together all the partners involved in cryospheric monitoring networks to work out the basic components of a joint communications strategy.

Quality assurance of long-term snow water equivalent measurements

Snow water equivalent (SWE) measurements play a key role in flood forecasting, snow load standards and the validation of remote sensing data. SWE data are currently collected manually. However, not only is this very time-consuming but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find staff to consistently conduct measurements throughout the season. Therefore, as part of this SLF project, several automated monitoring techniques were compared with conventional measurement instrumentation.

Comparison of spatially high-resolution measurements of snow distribution using manual and laser- and drone-based measurements in the Wägital

The time series covering snow density, snow water equivalent and snow depth for a catchment area in the Wägital valley is longer than any other in the world. However, manually recording snow depth is fraught with considerable uncertainties. One alternative is drone-based monitoring, enabling cost-effective, high-resolution estimates of snow depths. The aim of this joint SLF/Meteodat GmbH project was to evaluate the potential of this drone-based method.

Securing long-term permafrost monitoring at the Tsaté site in the framework of PERMOS

The systematic documentation and monitoring of mountain permafrost in the Swiss Alps is handled by the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network (PERMOS). The extreme conditions in a high Alpine environment mean that the measuring systems have to be regularly overhauled or even completely replaced. An example of this was the 2004 borehole at Tsaté, where there were increasing inconsistencies in the temperature time series. It was not feasible to calibrate or replace the thermistor string, which was stuck in the borehole. Instead, in the framework of GCOS Switzerland, MeteoSwiss provided support to enable the University of Lausanne to replace the borehole.

Updating the SwissSMEX soil moisture monitoring network infrastructure to secure the continuity of the long-term data series and ensure the data quality

Soil moisture is an essential climate variable (ECV) defined by GCOS. It affects the exchange of moisture and energy between land and atmosphere and plays a crucial role in the development of summer droughts and heatwaves that are a feature of our current climate. Soil moisture is being monitored in Switzerland since 2008 within the SwissSMEX project in 19 soil profiles at 17 stations. These measurements constitute the most important long-term data series of soil moisture in Switzerland. Analyses of these data in the GCOS SMiLE-ECV-CH project with regard to their availability and quality indicated a degradation of the network due to an increasing number of sensor failures over time leading to substantial data gaps. The project secured the continuity and quality of the network in the mid- to long-term by updating the SwissSMEX grassland stations with modern sensors. Their design made for a more consistent network set-up and will facilitate the replacement of failing stations.

Balloon-borne laser spectrometer for UTLS water research (ALBATROSS)

Water vapor in the UTLS (Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere) is a prominent Essential Climate Variable (ECV) that critically contributes to characterizing Earth’s climate and plays an important role in stratospheric dehydration, troposphere-stratosphere exchange processes, and the formation of cirrus clouds. However, in situ humidity measurements in the UTLS are still very challenging and carry significant uncertainties. The Albatross project is based on our recently developed QCL spectrometer for the measurement of water vapor in the UTLS. This spectrometer showed excellent performance in laboratory experiments and during two demonstration flights. Albatross complemented these results with the following activities: (i) further improvement of the mechanical and optical design, (ii) validation of the instrument with SI-traceable methods, and (iii) improving the spectral retrieval algorithm using more sophisticated line profiles, (iv) participating at the international intercomparison campaign for hygrometers,  AquaVIT4, and (v) repeated water vapor measurements in the UTLS. This work was carried out in close cooperation with METAS, MeteoSwiss, and the GRUAN Lead Centre in Lindenberg (Germany).

Fractional snow cover time series (1981 – 2021) – a novel dataset from space to support climate studies in Switzerland

This project generated a 40-year fractional snow cover time series for Switzerland based on Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite data, archived at the University of Bern. By doing so, it overcame missing spatial information in Switzerland's dense measurement network of stationary in-situ instruments. Spatial and temporal analysis of the novel snow cover time series for the time period 1981 until 2021 improves our understanding of the variability and changes of Alpine snow cover. Further analysis of the new data set were made in close cooperation with Climate Evolution, MeteoSwiss and serve as improved basis for climate services to enhance our process understanding in the field of snow cover dynamics and its impact on local society. The new data set is publicly available and supports climate studies as an independent data source on snow cover dynamics.

Enhance existing Swiss precipitation products with particular regards to snowfall

Snow is an important component of the water cycle in Switzerland, contributing approximately 40% of the runoff in Swiss rivers. Measuring snowfall is associated with considerable uncertainties, in particular in mountainous terrain, where undercatch of snowfall can cause biases of several 10%. Unlike other countries, Switzerland does not have monitoring networks to automatically measure snow water equivalent (SWE). However, there are hundreds of stations to measure snow depth, many of which are co-located with precipitation gauges. In the absence of sufficient SWE data, the combination of precipitation and snow depth data along with snow modelling and data assimilation methods enable determining biases in existing precipitation products. The project advanced datasets for one of the most important Essential Climate Variables (ECV) of the country, integrating existing monitoring and modelling systems for the benefit of any project or service that requires national-wide precipitation data as input.

Permafrost monitoring through reprocessing and repetition of geophysical measurements (REP-ERT)

Measurements using electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) make it possible to detect permafrost, i.e. continuously frozen ground, thanks to the very different electrical properties of frozen and unfrozen subsoil. However, the cost of this technique means that there is little continuous ERT monitoring of permafrost worldwide. One of the exceptions are six permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps that have been constantly monitored with ERT in the context of the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network (PERMOS) since 2005, enabling analysis of the long-term change in the soil's ice content and associated degradation or freezing processes. In addition, though, there are many permafrost sites (estimated at more than 500) where one-off ERT measurements have been performed in the past. The REP-ERT project  demonstrated the potential of these datasets for the climatological analysis of permafrost areas and preserved them for future repeat measurements by incorporating them into a shared database.

Aerosol Optical Depth data Web Interface for data communication to scientists and the public (GAWaodIDC)

The GAW PFR network is an aerosol optical depth network operated by PMOD/WRC and supported by WMO-GAW and MeteoSwiss. The project GAWaodIDC reported information on the processing chain and metadata for all GAWPFR Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) measuring stations. This was achieved and is demonstrated through the development of a website that provides new and complete AOD information, at one place (one-stop-shop), together with the full processing chain and meta-data, in accordance with the GCOS Switzerland strategic priorities 1.5 and 1.6. The interface is also a web tool, including aerosol related applications for different users (scientists, local operators, public).

Monitoring of Middle Atmospheric Water Vapor

The Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Bern develops and operates ground-based microwave radiometers for continuous monitoring of essential climate variables. This includes the “Middle Atmospheric Water Vapour Radiometer” (MIAWARA) at the Zimmerwald Observatory, which provides data to the international Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC) since 2002. With this project in the framework of GCOS CH, we ensured the continuity of this unique data record with an upgrade of the instrument hardware and data analysis software.