Top Researchers Fund
The support of top professionals has a long tradition at Heidelberg University, for which we are deeply indebted to our many donors. A margin of freedom is absolutely critical to succeed in the competition for top international professionals. It is the only way to offer national and international researchers and educators career prospects and competitive salaries and to retain them at the university for the long term.
The Top Researchers Fund enabled the University to acquire a terrestrial 3D laser scanner of the latest generation for Professor Bernhard Höfle. Using this new scanner, the GIScience and 3D Geospatial Data Processing Department of Prof. Höfle is able to not only develop cutting-edge Earth observation but it also helps the researchers to establish a new field of research in geography – “Autonomous Earth observation”. With its broad range of up to 4 km, its millimetre precision as well as its ability to take up to 1.2 million measurements per second, the laser scanner is perfect for terrain campaigns.
The research in Heidelberg focuses on the effects of climate change (e.g. melting of glaciers, changes regarding permaforst and coasts), natural hazards (e.g. landslides, floods) and applications in agriculture and forestry.
Learn more about the first two terrain campaigns of the 3D laser scanner, here.
First campaigns in the service of science
- The temporal dynamics of snow surfaces
- The changes in permafrost in the Alps due to climate changes
In April 2018, the warmest April since the beginning of weather records, the scanner was set up at the Schneeferner (Zugspitze) for a continuous measurement. The measurement aimed at capturing a unique highly temporal time series (landscape was captured at hourly intervals over the period of one week) of the snow cover and the occurring changes (e.g. melting, wind transport of snow, snow avalanches).The time series is an important data basis to further develop scientific methods for an autonomous Earth observation of snow covers. Besides, the data has also practical benefits for the ski run management of the skiing area of the Zugspitze.
At beginning of July 2018, the tongue of the rock glacier (Äußeres Hochebenkar) in the Ötztal valley was captured in 3D with the help of the scanner. A rock glacier is a kind of permafrost composed of rocks and a certain amount of iron. However, it cannot be compared to a typical ice glacier. The data of 2018 can now be compared to data from previous years in order to quantify the dynamics of the rock glacier and to be able to come up, if possible, with improved monitoring strategies. The long-term goal is to find out how rock glaciers react to climate change.
Visit the website of the Institute of Geography and get up-to-date information on the research group led by Prof. Höfle.