No more "thick air" over the Arctic

Pollution of the atmosphere lower than in previous years

The research aircraft Polar 2 of the Alfred Wegener Institute over Spitsbergen. © Andreas Herber, AWI
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The Arctic atmosphere is currently much cleaner than in previous years. This is the result of current measurements with the research aircraft Polar 2 and Falcon in the framework of the project ASTAR 2007 (Arctic Study of Tropospheric Aerosol, Clouds and Radiation).

Under the leadership of the two Helmholtz centers Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the German Aerospace Center, an international research group is currently researching the Arctic atmosphere over Spitsbergen. The aim of ASTAR is to accurately describe the Arctic atmosphere in spring.

Until April 17, 2007, scientists from nine countries are studying the atmosphere of the Arctic on small suspended particles, so-called aerosols and on clouds, in order to better understand their influence on the radiation budget of the atmosphere and its climate impact.

Aerosols are airborne particles that directly affect the climate by absorbing or reflecting sunlight. As nuclei, they can also trigger the formation of clouds and thus indirectly affect the climate. The measurement data is also an important contribution to the evaluation of data from the CALIPSO satellite. The satellite has been in polar orbit since April 28, 2006, watching from the clouds and aerosols over the Arctic.

Polar 2 and Falcon in action

The measurements are carried out with the research aircraft Polar 2 of the Alfred Wegener Institute and the Falcon of the German Aerospace Center. The aircraft take off and land in Longyearbyen and are timed with overflights of the CALIPSO satellite. In Ny-Ålesund, 120 kilometers away, researchers using ground-based measurements are supporting the campaign. display

Initial results of the previous measurement flights show that the Arctic atmosphere is very clean this year compared to previous years. However, remnants of pollution from Central and Eastern Europe could be detected within a few kilometers of altitude. The data collected will contribute to the assessment of CALIPSO measurements and better understanding of air mass transport between the Arctic and mid-latitudes.

The ASTAR project is supported by the German Research Foundation, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Sport and Culture, the Swedish "Polar Secretariat" and the French polar research institute IPEV in the Franco-German Arctic Platform TZT.

(idw - Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, 12.04.2007 - DLO)