Open to new ideas, open for new cooperations – aligned with these principles we operate the Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn (OpAL), relying on systemic long-term research while striving to reduce gaps in our understanding of high mountain systems. For us, ‘open’ takes on two central meanings:

Open Innovation: We understand OpAL as an innovative pool of thoughts and ideas, accessible to everyone interested in doing high-mountain research with us and always welcoming to new and interdisciplinary contributions.

Open Data: We understand OpAL as a provider of valuable information for everyone: scientists as well as the interested public.

Based on systemic long-term research, interactions between various components of the high-alpine system are detected and threshold values for significant system changes and potential hazards identified. One of the greatest challenges in this field of research is the improvement of predictions on future developments of natural and anthropogenically influenced processes.


Contribution GEORESEARCH: Project Lead

Project Partner: Technical University München (TUM), Paris Lodron University Salzburg (PLUS)

Project Duration: 2016-2022

Funding: Gletscherbahnen Kaprun AG


Gletscherbahnen Kaprun

Munich Alpine Hazards and Mitigation Cluster (AlpHaz)

Paris Lodron University Salzburg

Technical University Munich

Climate Change Adaptation in Ski Areas


How scientific guidance can help operators of ski areas adapt to climate change (and why high-alpine tourist areas represent ideal research partners). A new article in 'Der Standard' on our research activities at the Open-Air-Lab Kitzsteinhorn.

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MEDIA Article Open-Air-Lab Kitzsteinhorn


High-alpine regions around the globe are particularly vulnerable to climate change. More than ten years ago we therefore initiated the ‘Open-Air-Lab Kitzsteinhorn’ which monitors the consequences of climate change and contributes to sustainable climate change adaptation measures in high-alpine regions. The ‘Salzburger Nachrichten’ have now published an overview article on our research activities at the Kitzsteinhorn which is linked below (registration required). A very warm thank you goes out to the Gletscherbahnen Kaprun Kaprun for the fantastic collaboration over the last ten years.

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PUBLICATION Earth Surface Dynamics I

In the first of two companion papers we investigated the relationship between dramatic recent glacier retreat and high-alpine rockfall occurrence. The rockfall dataset analyzed is the most extensive of its kind worldwide and revealed a significant pattern: Rockwalls that became deglaciated in the last years and decades are particularly prone to rockfall. 


Check out the latest issue of the internationally renowned magazine "Earth Surface Dynamics" and read the full paper which has been selected as "Highlight Article" by the journal editors. 

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PUBLICATION Earth Surface Dynamics II


In the second of two companion papers we analyzed rockfall volume and frequency around a retreating glacier in the Hohe Tauern Range (Austria) based on a six-year laserscan-monitoring. In recently deglaciated rockwall sections rockfall frequency increased by 60 % while rockfall volume increased by a staggering 800 %. More details and analyses are available in the linked full paper. 

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EGU 2017

In April the three-year PhD project RIDGES was started at the University of Salzburg (funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences). In the project PhD student Andreas Ewald will investigate connections between glacier retreat and rockfall activity in oversteepened cirque walls. GEORESEARCH will assist RIDGES by providing logistical and advisory support at the Open-Air-Lab Kitzsteinhorn.

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Our high-alpine research activities at the Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn were covered for the ZDF series planet e. The documentary aired on 23.07.2017 and can now be viewed online. Our contribution starts at timestamp 8:30, detailed interviews with Markus Keuschnig (Georesearch) and Prof. Michael Krautblatter (TU Munich) are available as bonus material. 

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FIELDWORK Subglacial Drilling at Kitzsteinhorn


Eleven meters below the glacier surface, under demanding alpine conditions, we successfully drilled a new borehole into the headwall of the Schmiedingerkees glacier

We expect exciting new data on recent glacier retreat, future rockfall hazards and long-term cirque erosion. Many thanks to GEODATA for providing the drilling equipment. More information on our current ÖAW project 'GlacierRocks' is available here...

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PUBLICATION Automated ERT Monitoring at the Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn

Latest results from our geoelectrical monitoring at the Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn, published in the internationally renowned scientific journal 'Permafrost and Periglacial Processes'.

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DOCUMENTARY Melting Glaciers (ARD Alpha)

A film crew followed us during field work in a randkluft at the Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn. The resulting TV documentary is available under the following link ("Gletscherschmelze - Klimawandel im Hochgebirge" on ARD Alpha, Bayerischer Rundfunk and 3sat).

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MEDIA ARTICLE Permafrost Research at OpAL reports on our permafrost monitoring within the Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn. 

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MEDIA ARTICLE Permafrost researchers develop methods for an improved risk assessment

Report at on the establishment of a long-term environmental monitoring in the summit region of the Kitzsteinhorn.


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Kitzsteinhorn: Freiluftlabor liefert die Daten für die Zukunft. Salzburger Nachrichten (06.10.2021).





Hartmeyer I., Delleske R., Keuschnig M., Krautblatter M., Lang A., Schrott L., and Otto J.-C.: Current glacier recession causes significant rockfall increase: the immediate paraglacial response of deglaciating cirque walls. Earth Surface Dynamics, 8, 729–751,


Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Delleske R., Krautblatter M., Lang A., Schrott L., Prasicek G., Otto J.-C. (2020): A 6-year lidar survey reveals enhanced rockwall retreat and modified rockfall magnitudes/frequencies in deglaciating cirques. Earth Surface Dynamics, 8, 753–768,





Helfricht K., Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Krautblatter M., Leith K., Otto J.-C. (2019): Microclimate and temperature distribution inside a randkluft system – first observations and insights. Poster presentation at EMS Annual Meeting 2019, Copenhagen, Denmark, Vol. 16, EMS2019-90.





Otto J.-C., Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M. (2018): Naturgefahren in alpinen Permafrostregionen und Permafrostmonitoring. Geographische Rundschau 11-2018, 30-35, Braunschweig, Deutschland. 


Ewald A., Hartmeyer I., Lang A., Otto J.-C. (2018): Fracture Dynamics and Rock Slope Stability in Deglaciating Headwalls. Poster Presentation at the EGU General Assembly 2018, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 20, EGU2018-6383, 2018.


Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Delleske R., Plaesken R. (2018): OPAL—The Open-Air-Lab Kitzsteinhorn: Monitoring high-alpine rockfall and permafrost in a warming climate. Poster Presentation at the Jahrestagung des AK Hochgebirge, 2.-4. Februar 2018, Innsbruck.





Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Fegerl L., Valentin G., Helfricht K., Otto J.-C. (2017): Long-term monitoring of climate-sensitive cirques in the Hohe Tauern range. Talk at the 6th International Symposium for Research in Protected Areas 2017, Salzburg, Österreich.


Keuschnig M. & Hartmeyer I. (2017): The Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn (OpAL) – Open Innovation in High Altitude. Poster Presentation at the 6th International Symposium for Research in Protected Areas 2017, Salzburg, Österreich.





Keuschnig, M., Krautblatter, M., Hartmeyer, I., Fuss, C., and Schrott, L. (2016) Automated Electrical Resistivity Tomography Testing for Early Warning in Unstable Permafrost Rock Walls Around Alpine Infrastructure. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, doi: 10.1002/ppp.1916.


Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Delleske R., Schrott L. (2016): Rockfall in permafrost-affected Cirque Walls: New Insights on Spatial Variability and Potential Causes derived from a 4-year LiDAR monitoring campaign, Kitzsteinhorn, Austria. Vortrag auf der 11th International Conference on Permafrost, 20-24. Juni 2016, Potsdam, Deutschland.


Forschungsobjekt Permafrost. In: 'Salzburg. Der Aufstieg zum Winter-Eldorado', Magazin der Salzburger Nachrichten (S. 20-21) (21.11.2016.).


Planet Wissen - Gletscherschmelze, Klimawandel im Hochgebirge. ARD Alpha (21.10.2016).


Gletscherschmelze – Klimawandel im Hochgebirge. ARD Alpha & Bayerischer Rundfunk (02.08.2016).


Permafrost in Österreich - Ein erster nationaler Kurzbericht. Bergauf - Mitgliedermagazin des ÖAV (03/2016, 50-53).




Keuschnig, M., I. Hartmeyer, G. Höfer-Öllinger, A. Schober, M. Krautblatter, Schrott L. (2015): Permafrost-Related Mass Movements: Implications from a Rock Slide at the Kitzsteinhorn, Austria. In book: Engineering Geology for Society and Territory - Volume 1, Chapter: 48, Publisher: Springer International Publishing, Editors: Giorgio Lollino, Andrea Manconi, John Clague, Wei Shan, Marta Chiarle, pp.255-259.


Höfer-Öllinger, G., M. Keuschnig, M. Krautblatter, Schober A. (2015): Climate Change Impacts on High Alpine Infrastructures: An Example from the Kitzsteinhorn (3200 m), Salzburg, Austria. In book: Engineering Geology for Society and Territory - Volume 1, Chapter: 56, Publisher: Springer International Publishing, Editors: Giorgio Lollino, Andrea Manconi, John Clague, Wei Shan, Marta Chiarle, pp.301-303.


Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Delleske R., Wichmann V., Hoffmann T., Schrott L. (2015): Spatial patterns of rockfall in recently deglaciated high-alpine rock faces: Analysing rockfall release zones and volumes based on a multiannual LiDAR time series, Kitzsteinhorn, Austria. Vortrag auf der EGU General Assembly 2015, 12.-17. April 2015, Wien.


Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Hama M. (2015): Towards a climate-sensitive risk management for high-alpine infrastructures. Vortrag bei der European Climate Change Adaptation Conference 2015 (ECCA), 12.-14. Mai 2015, Kopenhagen, Dänemark.


Auftauender alpiner Permafrost führt zu mehr gefährlichen Felsstürzen. (16.08.2015).


Hitzewelle hat Folgen: Mehr Steinschlag und Felsstürze. Salzburger Nachrichten (11.08.2015).


Permafrost-Forschung gegen Felsstürze. (30.07.2015).


Permafrost-Forschung gegen Felsstürze. ORF2, Salzburg Heute (29.07.2015).




Supper R., Ottowitz D., Jochum B., Römer A., Pfeiler S., Kauer S., Keuschnig M., Ita A. (2014): Geoelectrical monitoring of frozen ground and permafrost in alpine areas: field studies and considerations towards an improved measuring technology. Near Surface Geophysics, 2014, 12, 93-115.


Otto J.C., Keuschnig M. (2014): Permafrost-Glacier Interaction – Process Understanding of Permafrost Reformation and Degradation. DOI:10.1553/IGF-1 ISBN: 978-3-7001-7577-3 In book: permAfrost – Austrian Permafrost Research Initiative. Final Report, Chapter: 1, Publisher: ÖAW - Austrian Academy of Sciences, Editors: Martin Rutzinger, Kati Heinrich, Axel Borsdorf, Johann Stötter, pp.3-16.


Keuschnig M., Krautblatter M., Hartmeyer I., Schrott L. (2014): Continuous monitoring of electrical resistivity tomography in steep unstable rock walls – Insights from the MOREXPERT Project, Kitzsteinhorn (3.203 m), Austria. Vortrag bei der 4th European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP4), 18.-21. Juni 2014, Evora, Portugal. 


Permafrost am Kitzsteinhorn: So wird die Gefahr von Steinschlag und Felssturz abgeschätzt. DAV Panorama Magazin (06/2014).


Langzeitmonitoring - Klimawandel sichtbar gemacht. Bergauf - Mitgliedermagazin des ÖAV (03/2014, 32-35).




Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig M., Otto J.C., Schrott L. (2013): Adapting to Climate Change in a High Mountain Environment: Developing a Monitoring Expert System for Hazardous Rock Walls. In: Filho W. L. (Ed.): Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management, Springer, pp 499-512.


Permafrostforscher entwickeln Methoden für bessere Gefahrenprognose. (13.06.2013).


Permafrostforscher verbessern Gefahrenprognose. APA Science (11.06.2013).


Permafrostforscher entwickeln Methoden zur Gefahrenprognose. Tiroler Tageszeitung (11.06.2013).


Salzburger Forscher wollen Steinschlag vorhersehen. Salzburger Nachrichten (11.06.2013).




Hartmeyer I., Keuschnig, M., Schrott L. (2012): Long-term monitoring of permafrost-affected rock faces – A scale-oriented approach for the investigation of ground thermal conditions in alpine terrain, Kitzsteinhorn, Austria. Austrian Journal of Earth Science, Vol. 105/2, pp. 128-139.


Schober, A., Bannwart, C., Keuschnig, M. (2012): Rockfall modelling in high alpine terrain – validation and limitations / Steinschlagsimulation in hochalpinem Raum – Validierung und Limitationen. Geomechanik Tunnelbau, 5: 368–378. doi: 10.1002/geot.201200025.


Ottowitz D., Jochum B., Supper R., Römer A., Pfeiler S., Keuschnig M. (2012): Permafrost monitoring at Mölltaler Glacier and Magnetköpfl. Berichte der Geologischen Bundesanstalt 01/2012; 93:57-64. ISSN: 1017-8880.




Keuschnig M., Hartmeyer I., Otto J.C., Schrott L. (2011): A new permafrost and mass movement monitoring test site in the Eastern Alps – Concept and first results of the MOREXPERT project. Managing Alpine Future II - Inspire and drive sustainable mountain regions. Proceedings of the Innsbruck Conference, November 21-23, 2011. (= IGF-Forschungsberichte 4). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Wien.


Unter Beobachtung: Das Kitzsteinhorn. ARD, W wie Wissen (31.07.2011).