Wengen-2004 International and Interdisciplinary Workshop

Mountain Glaciers and Society

Wengen, Switzerland, October 6 - 8, 2004

Final communications:
synthesis report and group photograph

View from the Hotel Regina, Wengen Click on photo to enlarge

Synthesis report (pdf format)
Download free reader:click on icon  

Group Photograph

  Photographs taken during the cocktail/icebreaker

  Some views of the Jungfraujoch

Information on Wengen-2005 will be available before the end of 2004! Check this site by December 15-20 to link to the home page of Wengen-2005...







Wengen is located in the Bernese Alps, which is famous for its spectacular views and the fact that it is a resort free of car and truck traffic; access is only by rail. If you come by train from Geneva or Zurich Airports, you will need to travel to Bern and then on to Interlaken Ost, which is the start of the Bernese Oberland mountain railroad (Berner Oberland Bahn). If you come by car, you need to park at Lauterbrunnen and take the mountain railroad for the 14-minute journey to Wengen.

Click here to find general information on Wengen and its surroundings.

This site provides you with a link to the Swiss Federal Railroad timetables, which will help you plan your travel to Wengen (if you wish to access the railroad timetable directly, click here)

The Workshop will take place at the Hotel Regina, located 2 - 3 minutes walk uphill from Wengen station.

  Publication of Workshop papers

It will be decided during the meeting whether there is the desire to publish papers presented at the meeting in a peer-reviewed journal or in a book edition of the series Advances in Global Change Research, published by Kluwer Academic Publishers (Dordrecht/The Netherlands and Boston/USA)

  Optional Excursion

An optional excursion is being planned following the close of the Workshop (on October 9, 2004)  to the scientific station of the Jungfraujoch , located at 3,600 m above sea-level.

More information on these excursions will be provided during the Workshop. In addition, the Jungfraujoch High Alpine Research Station provides information on the scientific aspects of the site.




A General Overview

Since 1995 we have held specialized Workshops on themes related to climate and global change research in the mountain resort of Wengen (Bernese Alps, Switzerland). In each case, a number of internationally-recognized experts have actively contibuted to the meetings. Along with young scientists and graduate students, the total number of participants has been about 50. So far, we have held the following Workshops:

For details on the individual Workshops (Workshop Reports), click here

  • 1995:Climatic Change at High Elevation Sites (September 11-16, 1995), co-organized with Prof. R. S Bradley, University of Massachusetts, USA, and Dr. H. F. Diaz, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • A special issue of the journal Climatic Change has been published with selected papers from this meeting (Vol. 36, 1997), and it has also been published as a book by Kluwer Academic Publishers in The Netherlands
  • 1996: High Resolution Climate Modeling (September 23-26, 1996), co-organized with Prof. L. Bengtsson, Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 1997: Past, Present and Future Climate Variability and Extremes: The Impacts on Forests (September 22-26, 1997), co-organized with Dr. J. Innes, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
  • Published in 1998 by Springer Verlag, Berlin and New York
  • 1998: Biomass burning and its Inter-Relationships with the Climate System (September 28 - October 2, 1998), co-organized with Prof. Michel Verstraete, Joint Research Center of the EU, Ispra, Italy, and Prof.J. Innes, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmesdorf, Switzerland
  • Published in 2000 by Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht and Boston, in the book series "Advances in Global Change Research"
  • 1999: Satellite Remote Sensing and Climate Models (September 20 - 24, 1999), co-organized with Prof. Michel Verstraete, Joint Research Center of the EU, Ispra, Italy (for operational reasons, the 1999 edition of the Workshops on Global Change Research was held in Les Diablerets, Switzerland)
  • Published in 2001 by Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht and Boston, in the book series "Advances in Global Change Research"
  • 2000:Climatic Change, Implications for the Hydrological Cycle and for Water Management (September 22 - 29, 2000), co-organized with Prof. U. Luterbacher, Graduate School for International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. E. Weigandt, University Institute Kurt Boesch, Sion, Switzerland, Prof. P. Vellinga, Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Dr. Holger Hoff, Potsdam Institute for Climate-Impacts Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • Publication in press  with Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht and Boston, in the book series "Advances in Global Change Research"
  • 2001: Environmental Change and its Implications for Population Migrations(September 19 - 21, 2001), co-organized with Prof. U. Luterbacher, Graduate School for International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. E. Weigandt, University Institute Kurt Boesch, Sion, Switzerland, Dr. S. Karlsson, International Human Dimensions Program, Bonn, Germany 
  • Publication under preparation for 2003 with Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht and Boston, in the book series "Advances in Global Change Research
  • 2002:Quantifying Terrestrial Carbon Sinks: Science, Technology, and Policy (September 25 - 29, 2002), co-organized with Martin Heimann, Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany; Pep Canadell, Global Carbon Project, Canberra, Australia; Michel Verstraete, Joint Research Center, Ispra, Italy; Shazn Quegan, Center for Earth Observation Science, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
  • Publication under preparation for 2004 in the journal "Climatic Change"
  • 2003:Regional Climate Change in Europe: Processes and Impacts (September 29-October 3, 2003), co-organized with Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen, Danish Meteorological Institute and Coordinator of the EU 5th Framework Program project "PRUDENCE". Sponsored by the European Science Foundation under its "Exploratory Workshop" series.
  • Probable publication of selected papers considered for 2005 in the journal "Climatic Change"
The success of these workshops is the result of a combination of factors, namely:
  • Scientific themes which require special attention in the context of global change, and which are usually not sufficiently addressed at large international meetings
  • Interdisciplinary topics, allowing researchers from different backgrounds to meet, discuss, and plan future joint collaboration
  • A relatively small number of speakers (35-40), where sufficient time is allocated for discussions and exchange of ideas
  • A Workshop spanning less than a full working week, allowing flexibility for scientists with a heavy schedule
  • No registration fees for students or persons from developing countries, Central and Eastern Europe
  • Some financial support, for Keynote Speakers and/or scientists from Eastern Europe and developing countries
  • A quiet environment away from the standard stress factors of the office, i.e., telephone, fax, E-Mail
  • A high quality hotel with superior accommodation and food at very competitive prices
  • The possibility of participating in an optional excursion to the world-renowned scientific research station of the Jungfraujoch on the last day of the Workshop
As a result of the success of these first Workshops, and the general framework in which these meetings are held, the "Wengen Workshops on Global Change Research" are now an annual event, organized by us at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, with scientific support from other institutions that have a major interest in the selected themes of the Workshops.



Mountain Glaciers and Society:
Perception, Science, Impacts and Policy

pdf version that you can download

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Background issues and problem areas
(scroll down for "Call for Papers")

Fluctuations of mountain glaciers are important sources of information about global climate change patterns. Currently there is evidence of glacial retreat in many areas of the world that provides a dramatic and convincing measure of global warming. Glaciers are also physical features that exert strong effects on human societies, in terms of perception and in economic terms. The very landscape of numerous mountain societies has been shaped by former and present-day glaciation, processes that have also influenced the opportunities and constraints of regions around mountain glaciers. Melt-waters, for example, provide essential resources for water and energy, while outburst floods or landslides constitute extreme hazards. Though the onset of recent phases of retreat predates 20th century warming, the increased pace of retreat is striking and raises numerous questions about impacts on society and the capacity of communities to respond to changes. Because mountain glaciers occur in widely-separated locations, different cultural traditions prevail, providing opportunity to compare different adaptive strategies.

Call for Contributions

In view of the foregoing issues, and in order to examine a number of the above-mentioned processes from an interdisciplinary perspective, an interdisciplinary workshop in the “Wengen Workshops on Global Change Research” series is being planned from October 6-8, 2004.

The three-day meeting will consist of a number of keynote papers to set the pace of each Workshop session, supporting contributions, and discussion sessions. Contributions based on the following themes are therefore invited:
•    climate-glacier interactions
        changes in mass balance
        shifts in length and surface areas
        glaciers and the hydrological cycle
        changes in ground conditions, erosion and sedimentation
        vegetation changes related to glacier fluctuations
•    impacts of physical changes
        hydro-based energy production
        transboundary issues (e.g., allocation of changing quantities and different seasonal distribution of             resources)
•    human perception of glacial retreat and advance and its relation to identity
        local/indigenous communities
        local, regional, state and international institutions
        glacier history from art and literature

    changes in hazards in response to glacier changes
        slope instabilities and avalanches
        changes in mountain permafrost
        floods and debris flows
        vulnerability of infrastructure
•    monitoring and modeling
        strategies and trends related to  long-term observation
        scenarios of future changes based on model results
        visualization techniques as a means of enhancing awareness and perception to long-term glacier                   fluctuations

•    responses to changes in glaciers, including changes in configuration and
     also intensity and frequency of natural hazards

        institutional arrangements such as property rights; resource and disaster policies
        adaptive responses, e.g., shifting activities, altering investments, buying insurance, engineering                             options
        mitigation through climate change politics/policy

These themes address different types of impacts of glacial retreat on local populations. The first addresses the pace and form of the physical changes. The second centers on resources and livelihoods, examining the economic importance of glaciers as sources of water for irrigation and hydropower and as attractions that draw tourists. The third considers landscape and identity, noting that social and cultural identities are often based on landscapes and the natural world, and the loss of glaciers can strike people as a sign that the world is becoming disordered. The fourth examines natural hazards, looking at the dangers associated with retreating glaciers such as rock-falls, flooding and avalanches. Themes five and six focus on responses to glacier retreat.  Monitoring and modeling activities, the topic of theme five, are necessary to provide knowledge about the pace and extent of change.  Theme six address the way in which different societies will incorporate information and evaluates adaptive responses to them from changes in behaviors and practices to policy changes.

Cutting across all these thematic areas are fundamental questions about the way individuals and society interact with glaciers.  People have perceptions and beliefs about glaciers and glacier processes. The way individuals respond to change is linked to these perceptions and influences, for example, their detection of changes and analyses and anticipation of future change.  All societies also develop  sets of norms, rules, and policies that  regulate the natural world. Property rights regimes, for example, establish control over the glaciers themselves,  the water they store,  and the land underneath, which appears and disappears as glaciers advance and retreat. How these various rights are defined will strongly affect the way resources are used and allocated.  Other decision-making process determine policy options. Analysis of decision-making from different perspectives is relevant in this context, including the use of historical examples to evaluate strategies adopted by individuals and groups to deal with past changes, the analysis of the process of decision-making, and the identification of the appropriate authorities and  levels of organization and action to achieve effective response to different climate adaptation problems.

Deadline for submission of papers
Papers should be submitted using the on-line registration form, where you can either type in your text or cut-and-paste your text from a Word file in the space reserved for Abstracts.

A preliminary program will be placed on this web-site before June 15, 2004.

Publication of Workshop Results

The output of the meeting should aim at providing a state-of-the-art document on the interdisciplinary issues at hand, which could for example be published in the new series «Advances in Global Change Research» by Kluwer Academic Publishers (Dordrecht/The Netherlands and Boston/USA), or in a peer-reviewed international journal.

In addition, a policy-makers type paper could be prepared for distribution via international bodies such as IHDP, EFIEA, and IGBP, to governments and intergovernmental agencies such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and of course the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Optional Excursion

An optional excursion will be held on Saturday, October 9, 2004, to the Jungfraujoch High Alpine Research Station, (NOTE: this URL is different from the one under the "General Information" Section) Europe’s highest scientific observatory at close to 3,600 m above sea-level (11,800 ft). It is located in the spectacular world of the high Alpine glaciers of the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau Massif, with views as far as the Black Forest and the Vosges Mountains to the North, and the Valais Alps to the South. The Jungfraujoch is the source of the Aletsch Glacier, which is the longest valley glacier in the Alps.

The High Alpine Research Station is funded by a consortium of countries; Switzerland contributes annually to 50% of its budget. Numerous scientific experiments take place here, from astrophysics and climate research to health and technology-oriented studies. Participants to the excursion will be able to visit some of the experiments taking place at the Jungfraujoch. Weather-permitting, there will also be the possibility of walking on the upper reaches of the Aletsch glacier. Weather-proof clothing and good shoes are essential; persons who are sensitive to low oxygen levels associated with high elevations should seek medical advice prior to the excursion.

We look forward to hearing from you in due course and to meeting you at what will undoubtedly prove to be an exciting meeting.

More information can be obtained on the scientific aspects of the Wengen-2004 Workshop from...

Martin Beniston
University of Fribourg, Switzerland
e-mail: Martin.Beniston@Unifr.CH

Ellen Wiegandt
Graduate Institute for International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland
and Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch, Sion, Switzerland
e-mail: wiegandt@hei.unige.ch

Wilfried Haeberli
University of Zürich, Switzerland
e-mail: haeberli@geo.unizh.ch




Online Registration Form


Affiliation and address:




I am interested in participating in the Wengen 2004-Workshop and would like to present a paper entitled:

                        With the following abstract: 

I will not attend the Wengen 2004-Workshop

I am not sure at present whether I will attend the Wengen 2004-Workshop, but please keep me on your mailing list.





Administrative Information / Accommodation

Registration fees

Registration fees are 100 EUROS (approximately USD 100 or CHF 150 at current exchange rates). These fees are payable in cash upon arrival in Wengen. 

There are NO registration fees for students, nor  for participants from Central and Eastern Europe, and those from Developing Countries


The Hotel Regina, where the meeting will take place, has set aside a block of rooms at the following special rate for Workshop participants:

CHF 156 per person single (approx. 100 or US$ 100 at current exchange rates betweeen the Swiss Franc and the Euro and US Dollar)
CHF 140 per person sharing a double room (€ 90 or US$ 90)

This rate includes, in additional to the room, a full buffet breakfast, a 5-course evening meal, and all taxes.

Please use the following link for online hotel reservation:

Online hotel reservation form

Please insert  in the space reserved for "Remarks" on this reservation form "WENGEN-2004 WORKSHOP". You will not be required to pay any fees in advance, and you will be granted the special rate for scientists.



Scientific Steering Committee (subject to change: check for updated lists)

  • Martin Beniston, Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland (martin.beniston@unifr.ch), Meeting coordinator
  • Harald Bugmann, Mountain Forest Ecology, Department of Environmental Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland (harald.bugmann@ethz.ch)
  • Paolo Burlando, Institute of Hydromechanics and Water Resources Management, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland (burlando@ihw.baug.ethz.ch)
  • Wilfried Haeberli, Department of Geography, University of Zürich, Switzerland (haeberli@geo.unizh.ch)
  • Benjamin Orlove, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California at Davis, United States (bsorlove@ucdavis.edu) 
  • Cynthia Rosenzweig, NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, New York, United States (crosenzweig@giss.nasa.gov) 
  • Ellen Wiegandt, Graduate Institute for International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland  and Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch, Sion, Switzerland (wiegandt@hei.unige.ch)