International Scientific Station Jungfraujoch

Located in the Bernese Alps, on the rocky spur known as the Sphinx, at an altitude of 3,571 meters, the Junfraujoch Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory is home to the international research station Global Atmosphere Watch and the Network for the Detection of the Atmospheric Composition Change . This international scientific observatory houses, among others, the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Solar Physics of the University of Liege. It is here that infrared light measurements are carried out. At high altitude, to avoid interference from water, which is abundant in the lower layers of the atmosphere, which could interfere with the results. 

Jungfraujoch Large


or decades now, the Group of the Institute of Astrophysics and Geophysics, and more particularly today the Infrared Group of Atmospheric and Solar Physics (GIRPAS) has been monitoring the visible and infrared solar spectrum at very high resolution. At the beginning, these researches aimed especially at defining the chemical composition of the external layers of the Sun. Progressively, they have been reoriented towards the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, using the Sun as a source of radiation.

The high altitude of the Sphinx Observatory at the Jungfraujoch, combined with instrumentation providing high resolution and a high signal-to-noise ratio, allow to overcome most of the absorption produced by high concentration gases in the troposphere and thus make the quantification and monitoring of trace gases of interest, mainly concentrated in the stratosphere, possible.


The unique situation of the Jungfraujoch allowed M. Migeotte to confirm the presence of carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4) in the atmosphere, even in unpolluted areas. In 1974, measurements taken at the Jungfraujoch by Rodolphe Zander (ULiège) also confirmed the presence of hydrogen fluoride (HF), which was the first proof that CFCs could reach the stratosphere, where they play a role in the destruction of ozone . This led to the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer (see below).

Theintuition of Marcel Migeotte, physicist at ULiège, as early as 1951, of the importance of measuring the variation of chemical compounds in the atmosphere, allows today comparisons of inestimable value. The comparison between these data and current measurements allows to determine the cumulative increases of these constituents over the last 70 years.

Use and impact

This research is of critical importance, particularly in the following areas:

  • Greenhouse gas accumulation and climate change;
  • Air quality degradation;
  • Reconstitution of the stratospheric ozone layer.

The measurements taken at the Jungfraujoch have been used to guide international policy decisions in response to these phenomena and to monitor them. In September 1987, the first draft of the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer was adopted. Measurements taken at the Jungfraujochshowed decrease in the chlorine load from the mid-1990s onwards, and thus the success of the Montreal Protocol

The present day

This tradition of the study of our atmosphere has continued until today with the recent evidence by the current team, thanks to measurements taken at the Jungfraujoch, of an increase of ethane due to the extraction of shale gas , a study led by Emmanuel Mahieu, Senior Research Fnrs at the ULiège and director of GIRPAS.


Research at the Jungfraujoch

In addition to the research carried out by the ULiège team and developed in detail below, many other fields are studied at the Jungfraujoch :

  • Meteorology
  • Radiation monitoring
  • Atmospheric monitoring
  • Aerosols and cloud formation
  • Radioactivity and cosmic rays
  • Medicine
  • Biology
  • Veterinary Physiology
  • Glaciology and permafrost


History of the Station

Source: 50 Jahre Hochalpine Forschungsstation Jungfraujoch, KantonalBank von Bern

  • 1838-1845: First scientific expeditions to the region
  • 1894: Plan for the construction of a scientific station on the Jungfraujoch
  • 1912: Completion of the railway tunnel to the station
  • 1930: Signature of the contract for the construction of the Jungfraujoch Scientific Station and creation of the international foundation "Jungfraujoch Scientific Station". The founding members are : Germany (Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft), Austria (Akademie der Wissenschaften), France (University of Paris), United Kingdom (Royal Society), Switzerland (Helvetic Society of Natural Sciences, Jungfrau Railway Society), joined in 1931 by Belgium, represented by the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS)
  • 1931: Beginning of research in the following fields: physiology, meteorology, glaciology, radiation, astronomy and cosmic radiation
  • 1936-1937 : Construction of the Sphinx observatory
  • 1950 : Installation of the first solar spectrograph at the Sphinx Observatory (Professors Marcel Migeotte and J. Swensson, Dr. L. Neven)
  • 1957-1958 : Installation of a large solar spectograph and a coelostat at the Sphinx Observatory (Professors Migeotte and L. Delbouille, Dr. L. Neven and Dor G. Roland)
  • 1966-1967: A new astronomical dome is built at the Sphinx Observatory and a telescope of 76 cm is installed there thanks to the FNRS, the French National Center of Scientific Research and the Swiss National Fund.
  • 1973: Integration of the Jungfraujoch and Gogernat observatories into the Hochalpine Forschungsstationen Jungfraujoch und Gogernat (HFSJG).
  • 2005: The research station is certified as the 23rd Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) station by the World Meteorological Organization
updated on 3/30/23

Share this page