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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research Special issue - May 2005   
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Title  Permanent monitoring of the atmosphere from the Svalbard

Greenhouse gases, organic and inorganic pollutants, aerosols… In order to study climate change, account must be taken of a great many parameters, one of the most important being the rapid evolution in the quality of our atmosphere.

The Zeppelin Station for Air Monitoring and Research is owned and operated by the Norwegian Polar Institute. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) is responsible for the scientific programmes at the station.
The Zeppelin Station for Air Monitoring and Research is owned and operated by the Norwegian Polar Institute. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) is responsible for the scientific programmes at the station.
© NILU
It is in the mass of air close to the ground (the troposphere) where major meteorological phenomena occur, and also where different families of gases circulate and mix together with particles and pollutants of all types.

At Ny-Alesund, the science settlement in the archipelago of Svalbard, the Zeppelin Station (78°54 N, 11°53 E) contains one of the major polar laboratories monitoring the atmosphere of the northern hemisphere.

"It is managed by the NILU, the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, in collaboration with the Norwegian Polar Institute," explains Geir Aasbostal, who has for many years overseen daily monitoring of sensors placed on the roof of the building at the top of this ‘mountain’ (474 metres altitude), and has ensured the quality of the data collected. "We permanently measure levels in the air of different types of gases, such as methane, carbon monoxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). The same applies to particles suspended in the air, (which we study in terms of their size and distribution) and a range of inorganic pollutants, such as mercury. Finally, when it rains or snows, we collect samples which are also analysed."

A poor record concerning the greenhouse gas HFC
These regular measurements inform researchers about changes to the atmosphere and also the sources, transport, dispersion and possible transformation of pollutants and their impact on the environment. One thing is clear: since 1999, the levels of HFC, a greenhouse gas, measured at Ny-Alesund, have been steadily rising. In 2003, a terrible record was broken, when levels rose by 25%. These data, and others, are essential in contributing to and validating the mathematical models used to simulate climate change on a planetary scale.

    
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