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Forschungszentrum Jülich involved in forecast models and aircraft measurements

Jülich, 12 July 2013 – This summer, Canada is experiencing unusually extensive wildfires. This week alone, 341 new forest fires have consumed a total area of 616,000 hectares. The smoke clouds produced by the fires in Canada have now reached Europe. In the EU research project Monitoring Atmospheric Composition and Climate (MACC-II), in which researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich are playing a leading role, an integrated system for data analysis and modelling is used to provide daily forecasts of the global atmospheric concentration of pollutants. Smoke and trace gas emissions can be determined based on satellite data of the Canadian wildfires. The MACC-II model system then calculates how these pollutants are transported and chemically transformed.

An animation produced from data of the global MACC-II forecasting system shows how strong winds over the North Atlantic transport the smoke from Canada to the northwest of Europe within three days. The smoke is usually located at an altitude of two to four kilometres. During a couple of days this smoke was visible with the naked eye from several locations in Scandinavia. The atmospheric conditions over Europe, which were responsible for the beautiful summer weather in the past few days, transport the smoke and other trace substances in a southerly direction towards Italy.

The forecasts are verified through atmospheric measurements from commercial airliners as part of the European research infrastructure In-Service Aircraft for a Global Observing System (IAGOS) coordinated by Forschungszentrum Jülich. During their landing approach to Frankfurt and Paris on 6 July, aircraft flying for IAGOS measured significantly increased concentrations of carbon monoxide at altitudes between two and four kilometres. These values match the forecasts from the MACC system. This episode therefore convincingly demonstrates how measurements and model calculations complement each other in near real time and help us to understand processes in the atmosphere.

The MACC-II project is coordinated by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in Reading, UK. It includes 31 partners from 13 EU countries.

Fire intensity in North America on 9 July 2013Fire intensity in North America on 9 July 2013. Yellow dots represent particularly strong blazes that produce very large amounts of smoke.



Animation of simulated carbon monoxide concentrations from the operational MACC-II forecast. The elevated concentrations caused by the wildfires in Canada are clearly recognizable as red clouds.

Vertical profiles of carbon monoxide in Frankfurt and ParisVertical profiles of carbon monoxide measured from IAGOS airliners on 6 July during landing approach to Frankfurt (left) and Paris (right). They reveal significantly elevated levels of carbon monoxide at altitudes between two and four kilometres (black line), which are also visible in the MACC-II forecast.

Further information:

Press release on the website of the MACC-II project

Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Troposphere (IEK-8)

Monitoring Atmospheric Composition and Climate

In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System

Europäisches Zentrum für Mittelfristige Wettervorhersage

Canadian Wildland Fire Information System


Prof. Andreas Wahner
Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung – Troposhäre (IEK-8)
Tel.: +49 2461 61 5932

Press contact:

Annette Stettien
Tel.: +49 2461 61-2388

Tobias Schlößer
Tel.: +49 2461 61-4771