Before it joined the nowadays Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT (former Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH), today’s IMK-IFU belonged to the Fraunhofer Society as "Fraunhofer Institute for Atmospheric Environmental Research (IFU)". Historically speaking, IMK-IFU dates from the “Physico-Bioclimatic Research Office” founded by Dr. Reiter in Munich in the late 40ies. In 1954, it moved to the area of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and was taken over by the Fraunhofer Society (FhG) as an independent institute in 1962. IFU, i.e. today’s IMK-IFU, thus represents one of the oldest institutes working in the field of atmospheric environmental research in Germany.
In 1973 in the course of the establishment of an own institute building in the district of Garmisch, the FhG institute was renamed “Fraunhofer Institute for Atmospheric Environmental Research”. In 1990 – following the appointment of Professor Dr. W. Seiler as Institute Director (1986-2007) – this building was extended and adapted to the new research profile and its changed requirements on laboratory and room equipment.
After the IFU with its research work of predominantly public interest had been increasingly relegated to the fringe of the FhG due to the latter’s reorientation towards industry-oriented research, transfer of the institute to another organization was envisaged. An expert opinion of the scientific council on the scientific achievements of IFU (published in July 2001) had recommended a transfer of the institute to the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH.
This transfer became effective on 1st January 2002 already. Since then, the institute has been integrated in the “Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK)” as Atmospheric Environmental Research Department (IMK-IFU), its contribution being an essential one. While the research activities predominantly concentrated on the fields of meteorology, air electricity, and radioactivity until the 70ies , main activities have shifted to climate and atmosphere research since 1986.
Since 2009 the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) was founded by a merger of Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH and University of Karlsruhe, to boundle the mission of two precursory institutions.
Today’s research activities of IMK-IFU focus on studies of
(i) the interaction between biosphere and atmosphere in a changing world,
(ii) the influence of man on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and its impact on the environment, and
(iii) regional climate and hydrology.
With these activities, IMK-IFU is integrated in the Atmosphere and Climate Program (ATMO) of the HGF (Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers) research area “Earth and Environment”, its results contributing essentially to the in-depth understanding of the system “Earth” and serving as a basis for a reliable derivation of measures to improve environmental conditions on the regional scale. IMK-IFU is involved in the relevant international and national research programs. Furthermore, it is part of important environmental observation networks, such as NDSC (Network for Detection of Stratospheric Change) and GAW (Global Atmosphere Watch). In addition, it is the World Calibration Center for N2O and VOC, where among others scientists and technicians from third world countries are trained.
In 2007 Prof. Dr. H.P. Schmid has started as new Institute Director. At the same time he holds a Teaching Chair in Atmospheric Environmental Research at the Technical University of Munich.