Extreme Environments Research Laboratory EERL

Understanding polar and alpine environments


Extreme environments are very sensitive to climate change and are transforming at accelerated rates. This can have important repercussions for society such as changed weather patterns or sea level rise. Hence understanding processes of change is essential for future predictions.

The EERL aims to create integrated process understanding by conducting field studies looking at interactions between the atmosphere, cryosphere, ocean, land and human activities. Assuming a perspective of atmospheric science, the goal is to characterize processes that are directly influenced by humans versus natural processes that are undergoing change due to climate forcing. 

New Master and Semester projects for the Fall semester 2021!

Check the latest available projects. A chance to apply and acquire knoweldge through practical and field work

EPFL News Channel

Picture of the Arctic taken from the sky. © Paul Zieger,

Modeling polar processes in the global climate system

— A new project maps the role of polar sea ice and snow in the global climate system. Julia Schmale, a tenure-track assistant professor at EPFL, is part of the research team.

© 2021 EPFL

Julia Schmale, EPFL Valais Wallis : "J'aime les régions polaires,…"

— Julia Schmale: «J’aime les régions polaires, leur environnement exigeant, entre tempêtes et coups de soleil» Spécialiste de la chimie de l’atmosphère, Julia Schmale dirige le Laboratoire de recherches en environnements extrêmes de l’EPFL Valais Wallis à Sion. Elle tente de comprendre pourquoi la région arctique se réchauffe deux à trois fois plus vite que le reste du monde.

The Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet© Istock

Better understanding the reasons behind Arctic amplified warming

— EPFL professor Julia Schmale is calling on scientists to conduct dedicated process studies and to share their data and research findings on Arctic warming. She stresses the importance of studying how aerosols and clouds interact, as these highly complex and poorly understood mechanisms play a key role in climate change, but are also strongly affected by it. According to her, the region is in rapid transition and scientists need to act to not run behind.

© 2021 Le Nouvelliste Louis Dasselborne

EPFL Valais Wallis mesure la qualité de l'air à l'aide d'un ballon

— Depuis une semaine, le laboratoire de recherche en environnements extrêmes de l’EPFL Valais Wallis effectue, à l’aide d’un ballon à hélium, une campagne de mesures dans le ciel de Sembrancher. Explications.

© 2020 iStock

Climate: Iodic acid influences cloud formation at the North Pole

— An international team of scientists from EPFL, the Paul Scherrer Institute and Stockholm University has identified a novel driver of new aerosol particle formation in the Arctic during the summer to fall transition. The authors show that iodic acid is important for forming new particles which subsequently influence the formation of clouds and their radiative effect over the Arctic pack ice.

© 2020 EPFL Julia Schmale

"It felt like we were living on another planet”

— Julia Schmale is a truly adventurous researcher, and her favorite places to explore are extreme environments in far-flung corners of the world. During her most recent trip, she was stranded in the icy Arctic for four months, a long way from COVID-19 but impacted by its effects.

© 2020 EPFL

Trapped in Arctic ice to study the climate

— Sarah Dirren, the time of an interview for the CQFD program of RTS la Première (start at 10:34 of the recording), takes you to the Arctic aboard the Polarstern, a ship that drifts from the Fall 2019.