February 20, 2024

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The Arctic holds weather secrets – an NTUA mission

The Arctic holds weather secrets – an NTUA mission

2023 was the warmest year on record on Earth. Sudden transitions weather And Extreme weather conditions It appears more and more, as we are now inside it Climate crisis. Climate change trends are not easy to decipher, because they depend on many factors. Researchers search for answers at the ends of the Earth, in boundary conditions that help capture data. The main question is what will the focus path ultimately be? Atmospheric dust In the atmosphere, we have trends that are reducing them (such as reducing the use of fossil fuels), but there are also other trends that are contributing to their increase, such as more frequent forest fires. What role will this play in cloud formation, global warming and weather patterns in the coming decades?

In his neighborhood North Pole An international research mission will seek answers in the context of an ambitious international programme Clean Cloud Horizon 2020With Greek participation at the level of researchers and systems, from where the lidar system will move NTU To the frozen north. Specifically, preparations are being made in the coming period to send specialized remote sensing (lidar and radar systems) and field measurements (captive balloon) to the Willum Science Station located on the northern tip of Greenland. Aerosol, cloud, wind and ice measurements are planned there. Shipping of instruments is coordinated by professors at the Polytechnic University of Lausanne (EPFL). Athanasius Nene, Alexis Byrne, and Julia Schmale It is supported by the ERC-PyroTRACH program and coordinated by Mr. Ninis, as a researcher at the Institute of Technology and Research/Institute of Chemical Engineering Sciences (ITE/IEXMH) based in Patras.

Difficult conditions

“As part of CleanCloud, NTUA sends a lidar system to measure the vertical distribution of aerosols and the height of the atmospheric boundary layer,” Alexandros Papagiannis reports to K., head of the Laboratory of Optoelectronics, Lasers and Applications at NTUA and a visiting professor at EPFL, through which he is a researcher in this programme. Measurements using lidar and radar systems will be made continuously in Greenland Dr. Romanos Voskini, a postdoctoral researcher at EPFL, with Mr. Nene as Scientific Officer. “This is a very special mission, and it faces great difficulties, as temperatures at the Wellum station reach -30 and -40 degrees Celsius. “It is no coincidence that until now no similar measurements have been made using a lidar system with these capabilities so close to the North Pole “, points out Mr. Papagiannis. Even transporting researchers and instruments to the isolated Willum station is an adventure, as it will be done by flights in very difficult conditions. The nearest Norwegian city is located about 750 kilometers to the east.

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Founded in 2014, the Villum Research Station, which can accommodate up to 14 people, is owned by the Greenlandic government and operates under the responsibility of Aarhus University in Denmark, which is partnering and coordinating with Mr. Nene the CleanCloud project. But what are researchers looking for near the North Pole? “We want to record the state of the atmosphere and clouds by looking at large areas in places of particular concern for climate change, such as the poles, which are warming four times faster than the rest of the planet. From Velome we will also see the wider region by remote sensing.” Mr. Ninnis explains to K.. “We are in a period of change. The use of fossil fuels will be more and more limited, as we move to renewable energy sources. This will have the effect of reducing aerosol concentrations generated by the burning of coal and other minerals. What impact will these changes have on cloud formation? How will the rain cycle be affected? What What will be the contribution to climate change? Will there be changes in the source and amount of aerosols? For example, there may be an increase in fires in the future due to climate change. What role will smoke particles play? How will the weather change, and what will be the impact on climate? “, says Mr. Ninis to K, explaining the questions that the research project will address.

The Arctic holds weather secrets - NTUA-1 mission
The lidar system sent by NTUA measures the vertical distribution of aerosols and the height of the atmospheric boundary layer.

“We want to record the state of the atmosphere and clouds by looking at large areas in places that are particularly important for climate change.”

This is a very complex and volatile situation. The situation developing in the Arctic is typical, far from the picture of virgin territory. “The atmosphere in the Arctic is periodically filled with smoke from fires in Siberia, Canada or Europe. In fact, the smoke does not dissipate anymore, as the atmospheric conditions there trap it. But it is not limited to 'imported' particles.” Today's Arctic contains Many new sources, such as dust! As the ice melts, the exposed soil underneath is rich in fine dust, which can be easily lifted by the strong winds that often blow in the region,” says the ITE researcher and EPFL professor. Added to all this are emissions resulting from biological activity, as well as increased pollution as a result of increased navigation in the region. As the ice melts, more ships pass through, which may contribute to the severity of the ice melt.

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What are the goals of the CleanCloud mega project? “A lot,” answers Mr. Ninis. By collecting large amounts of data and knowledge, sophisticated new algorithms will be developed that will significantly improve European climate and weather models through advanced machine learning. The role of aerosols in cloud formation and the occurrence of extreme weather phenomena will also be studied. There will also be cooperation and support for the new satellite European Space Agency (ESA) Earth Care.

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“The ultimate goal of the project is to reduce uncertainties in climate models through better representation of processes between aerosols and clouds, in order to achieve better short- and long-term predictions of global climate,” notes Mr. Papagiannis.

In the Mediterranean Sea

It is noteworthy that after the North Pole, where two cycles of measurements are scheduled (March-April and June-August) with the participation of NASA's special aircraft in the summer season (ArcSix experiment), the CleanCloud experiment will continue at the climate change monitoring station EKEFE “Democritos” in Helmos in October. , to record the situation in the atmosphere in the southeastern Mediterranean which is a hotspot of climate change. Undoubtedly, the excellent cooperation between scientists from prominent foreign (EPFL) and domestic (NTUA and ITE) research institutions has created an excellent bridge of science, technology and human resources to understand and address what is perhaps the most difficult problem facing humanity in our time. For us, for climate change.

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