Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Review article
24 Jan 2018
Review article |  | 24 Jan 2018

The Rofental: a high Alpine research basin (1890–3770 m a.s.l.) in the Ötztal Alps (Austria) with over 150 years of hydrometeorological and glaciological observations

Ulrich Strasser, Thomas Marke, Ludwig Braun, Heidi Escher-Vetter, Irmgard Juen, Michael Kuhn, Fabien Maussion, Christoph Mayer, Lindsey Nicholson, Klaus Niedertscheider, Rudolf Sailer, Johann Stötter, Markus Weber, and Georg Kaser

Abstract. A comprehensive hydrometeorological and glaciological data set is presented, originating from a multitude of glaciological, meteorological, hydrological and laser scanning recordings at research sites in the Rofental (1891–3772 m a.s.l., Ötztal Alps, Austria). The data sets span a period of 150 years and hence represent a unique time series of rich high-altitude mountain observations. Their collection was originally initiated to support scientific investigation of the glaciers Hintereisferner, Kesselwandferner and Vernagtferner. Annual mass balance, glacier front variation, flow velocities and photographic records of the status of these glaciers were recorded. Later, additional measurements of meteorological and hydrological variables were undertaken, and over time a number of autonomous weather stations and runoff gauges were brought into operation; the available data now comprise records of temperature, relative humidity, short- and longwave radiation, wind speed and direction, air pressure, precipitation, and river water levels. Since 2001, a series of distributed (airborne and terrestrial) laser scans is available, along with associated digital surface models. In 2016 a permanent terrestrial laser scanner was installed on Im hintern Eis (3244 m a.s.l.) to continuously observe almost the entire area of Hintereisferner. The data and research undertaken at the sites of investigation in the Rofental area enable combined research of cryospheric, atmospheric and hydrological processes in complex terrain, and support the development of several state-of-the-art glacier mass balance and hydroclimatological models. The institutions taking part in the Rofental research framework promote their site in several international research initiatives. In INARCH (International Network for Alpine Research Catchment Hydrology,, all original research data sets are now provided to the scientific community according to the Creative Commons Attribution License by means of the PANGAEA repository (

Short summary
A hydrometeorological and glaciological data set is presented with recordings from several research sites in the Rofental (1891–3772 m a.s.l., Ötztal Alps, Austria). The data sets are spanning 150 years and represent a unique pool of high mountain observations, enabling combined research of atmospheric, cryospheric and hydrological processes in complex terrain, and the development of state-of-the-art hydroclimatological and glacier mass balance models.