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PEGASOS En Route to the Arctic Circle

Climate researchers from Jülich take off for northern Europe with the Zeppelin NT

Jülich/Friedrichshafen, 8 April 2013 – From mid-April, the Zeppelin NT will once again be on a mission for climate research – this time travelling as far as Finland. Jülich scientists are starting the second part of their measurement campaign within the pan-EU project PEGASOS, which involves 26 partners from a total of 14 European countries and Israel, and aims to investigate relationships between atmospheric chemistry and climate change. At the moment, the airship is being converted from a passenger to a research Zeppelin and initial test flights with measuring instruments are in progress at Friedrichshafen.

On 15 April, the Zeppelin NT is scheduled to embark upon its more than two-month journey. The destination is Hyytiälä in Finland. Further expeditions are planned from here – if possible up to the Arctic Circle. Three different sets of measuring instruments will be used during the campaign. They will primarily record data on two actors found in atmospheric layers close to the ground: hydroxyl radicals (OH radicals), known as the 'detergent of the atmosphere', and aerosols. Data on their formation and their contribution to climatic processes are expected to reveal new information, such as on the atmosphere's ability to cleanse itself.

The first part of the campaign in 2012 already provided new insights into OH radicals and aerosol formation – especially concerning the time of day and altitude at which certain processes occur. In early summer last year, the Zeppelin NT was under way for two weeks in the Netherlands in the region around Amsterdam and then departed for the Adriatic coast. The researchers spent almost a month around and about Ozzano near Bologna, Italy, investigating the air quality in the Mediterranean region. In all parts of the campaign, the mission routes and the measuring locations were and will be coordinated with existing ground measuring stations. In this way, the researchers can directly compare data from the flight with stationary measurements.

The Zeppelin measurements perfectly supplement data from ground measuring stations and also from aircraft since due to its unique flight characteristics the Zeppelin NT can fly in the planetary boundary layer, at an altitude of up to about 2000 m. It is in this chemically very reactive, but as yet little investigated, region that the fate of most of the pollutants emitted on the earth's surface is decided. Information about this region is therefore necessary to understand the atmospheric processes in detail and to verify model concepts. The Zeppelin NT can float slowly at this altitude, hover in the air, ascend and descend vertically, and fly for up to 24 hours. During the present campaign, it will transport a measuring instrument weighing more than a tonne that was developed with BMBF support.

The Zeppelin mission is part of the Pan-European-Gas-AeroSOl-Climate Interaction Study, or PEGASOS for short, which is funded by the European Commission under its 7th Framework Programme for Research. The campaign will measure the influence of atmospheric chemistry on climate change and aims to clarify the decisive processes. The findings will provide a scientifically sound basis for climate protection measures throughout the EU and thus for improving air quality, taking into account its impact on climate change. Global climate policy will benefit from the results of the project as well, because project partners are also involved in the work of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Further information:

Pictures of previous Zeppelin flights


Blog on the Zeppelin campaign (Blogspot)

Detailed flight plans for the 2012 campaign (Google Earth)

Jülich climate research with the Zeppelin NT

Forschungszentrum Jülich, Institute of Energy and Climate Research, Troposphere (IEK-8)

Zeppelin NT

EU's 7th Framework Programme (EU)

European Commission on Research and Innovation (RTD), Environment (EU)



Prof. Andreas Wahner
Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Troposphere (IEK-8)
Tel: +49 2461 61-5932

Prof. Dr. Astrid Kiendler-Scharr
Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Troposphere (IEK-8)
Tel: +49 2461 61-4185

PD Dr. Thomas Mentel
Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Troposphere (IEK-8)
Tel: +49 2461 61-6921

PD Dr. Andreas Hofzumahaus
Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Troposphere (IEK-8)
Tel.: +49 2461 61-3239

Press Contacts:

Forschungszentrum Jülich:
Dr. Barbara Schunk, Tel. +49 2461 61-8031,
Erhard Zeiss, Tel. +49 2461 61-1841,