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Research and development


The physical properties of snow and its interaction with the atmosphere are the core areas of research of the SLF, along with avalanche formation, avalanche dynamics and avalanche protection. Besides avalanches, it also investigates other alpine natural hazards, such as landslides, rockfalls, debris flows and floods – in cooperation with other research groups both within and outside the WSL.

Among the other major subject areas are permafrost, snow climatology and hydrology, as well as industrial projects, typically concerning snow sports. The scientists are also examining how mountain ecological systems respond to changes in the environment. This also concerns the impacts of renewable energy sources on the environment, economy and society. In this context, barrier or avalanche protection forests, biodiversity, climate change and changing use have emerged as key issues.

Bridge between research and practice

In order to record the complex processes that accompany natural phenomena as realistically as possible, detailed measurements are taken at various test sites and in laboratories. The captured data are used to develop theoretical models and computer simulations.

The SLF thrives on close interaction between basic and applied research. To translate the scientific findings immediately into practice, its employees produce useful tools, such as codes of practice, software, expert opinions, communication and information systems, and technical innovations. These are used, for instance, to manage the risk associated with natural hazards or analyse climatic and environmental changes.

The diversity and complexity of the subject matter calls for an interdisciplinary research effort. Close cooperation therefore takes place with other WSL research divisions in Birmensdorf, Lausanne and Bellinzona, and with other scientific institutions in Switzerland and abroad.