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9.5 million euros to research infrastructure for aerosols, clouds and trace gases

Brussels / Leipzig, 3. June 2015: The European Commission will fund the research infrastructure ACTRIS-2 with a total of 9.5 million euros until 2019. Thus, the existing network of ground-based long-term observatories for aerosols, clouds and trace gases can be further expanded.

31 partners from 21 European countries, providing atmospheric measurements from 20 “supersites” located in different climate zones, are participating in the project “Aerosols, Clouds, and Trace gases Research Infrastructure” (ACTRIS-2). Among them are NILU – the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, leading the ACTRIS data center and contributing data from observatories on Svalbard (Zeppelin), Antarctica (Trollhaugen) and in Aust-Agder (Birkenes).

Improving knowledge

Health effects caused by air pollution and potential damage due to climate change are major environmental challenges faced by the EU in the coming decades. Therefore, the observation of long-term trends in the atmosphere is crucial in order to improve our knowledge of processes and respond appropriately.

ACTRIS-2 examines three essential factors of climate change and air quality:

  • Trace gases such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • Natural and anthropogenic aerosols (e.g., particulate matter from traffic and industry, soil dust and smoke from forest fires). The levels of anthropogenic aerosols vary widely throughout Europe, but play a major role for human health and the Earth’s climate system.
  • Clouds – still one of the largest sources of uncertainties in climate models, as it is unclear how their properties and their appearance will change in a changing climate.

Unique insights

The ACTRIS-2 cooperation plays an important role in understanding changes in the atmosphere. Besides building knowledge and providing freely available high quality data, ACTRIS-2 will investigate the atmosphere from the ground up to the upper troposphere, at altitudes of about 10 kilometers – thus providing insight that are unique in European research context.

ACTRIS-2 complements three other EU research infrastructures in the field of environmental sciences: ICOS, which focuses on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, SIOS, which examines the Arctic from Svalbard, and IAGOS, which surveys atmospheric gases and particles by airliners.

Adding value

Many of the ACTRIS-2 observation stations are also used in the EMEP (European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme) and GAW (Global Atmosphere Watch) international monitoring programmes. By improving the aerosol and trace gases observations within these networks, ACTRIS-2 adds an essential scientific capacity.

In addition, ACTRIS-2 contributes to the harmonisation of observations, quality assurance, and implementation of new or improved measurement protocols throughout the networks.

NILUs observatory at Trollhaugen, Dronning Maud land, Antarctica. Photo: Chris Lunder, NILU.