The Sonnblick Observatory was built at Mt. Hoher Sonnblick in 1886.
Why was an observatory built at such an exposed location?
In 1879 during the international congress of the meteorologic society in Rome, research and analysis of the upper atmosphere layers were combined as one important subject. Meteorologists discovered that important information was obsolete without including upper layers. Based on the initiative of the meteorologist Julius Hann (left image), a suitable location for an observatory was sought. Given the existing infrastructural throughout the valley Rauris in the South of the federal province Salzburg, Mr. Hann came to the decision that Mt. Hoher Sonnblick was ideal location. At that time Rauris prospered from mining and was one of the first villages in Austria to use electrical power. The mine owner Ignaz Rochajer helped tremendously to build the Sonnblick Observatory in the challenging environment at over 3,000 meters above sea level.
In 1886 a weather tower and a small wooden hut was established. During the early years, the conservation and operation of the observatory was organized by the Austrian Meteorology Society and supported by Ignaz Rojacher. In 1891 Ignaz Rojacher died suddenly and the continuation of the Sonnblick Observatory was compromised due to financial issues. This was the hour of birth for the association Sonnblick Verein, established in 1892. This solicited a large number of members and sponsors to finance the Sonnblick Observatory. Important scientists, wealthy people and organizations supported the Sonnblick Verein including, the brewer Anton Dreher, the coffee Kommerzialrat, Julius Meinl and Freiherr Albert Anselm von Rothschild.
Continuing conservation of the observatory at Mt. Hoher Sonnblick remains difficult and challenging.
Wilhelm Schmid, after World War One, and Luitpold Binder, after World War Two, sought interest at the Sonnblick Observatory with the help of sponsoring campaigns. One such action was of Josef Bendl. This Vienna based teacher organized slide lectures about the observatory and the surrounding nature, inspiring the youth with his book “ Der Sonnblick ruft”. Johannes Mario Simmel wrote an appeal for funds and Siegfried Schwarzl, a Vienna musician, organized a charity concert of the State Opera Orchestra. These concentrated relief efforts helped the Sonnblick Observatory through economical hard times.
Today the Sonnblick Verein receives annual subsidies from the responsible ministry and the Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften to preserve the Sonnblick Observatory and to support high altitude research. Additional funding by the ministry allowed significant renovations during 1986 and 1994.
Austria can be proud of its pioneer performance!
Now we have a valuable time series, including more than 130 years of history and climate change.
Important research contributions started at the Sonnblick Observatory and we continue to work on important climatological and environmental topics.