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„Unique Opportunities for Observation to Bridge Knowledge Gaps“

Jülich, 30 April 2020 – What impact is the shutdown prompted by the coronavirus crisis having on air quality in the Rhineland region? Jülich atmospheric researchers will be investigating this in an extraordinary measurement campaign being launched this weekend. A Zeppelin NT airship will fly over the region on different routes over several days, with instruments on board to measure trace gases and particulate matter. Prof. Astrid Kiendler-Scharr, director at Jülich’s substitute for troposphere research, is coordinating the measurement campaign and has given an interview on the project’s objectives.

Jülich’s troposphere researchers used passenger flights with the Zeppelin to conduct measurements over the Rhineland last year as well. Why is the Zeppelin used for these measurements?

The Zeppelin flies at an altitude of a few hundred metres above the ground. This lowest layer of the atmosphere is of particular importance for issues concerning air quality, insofar as a majority of emissions are released at ground level and interact with the air chemistry in this layer. However, data from direct in-situ measurements in this layer are rare, or are limited to local measuring sites, such as measuring towers. The Zeppelin perfectly satisfies all the conditions for analysing uncontaminated air samples thanks to its flight characteristics. Using passenger flights for measurements, as we do in the IAGOS project, also of course has the added benefit that we can make a larger number of observations.

Prof. Astrid Kiendler-ScharrProf. Astrid Kiendler-Scharr
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Sascha Kreklau

What are the objectives of the new campaign? And where do you think there will be major changes?

In our ongoing campaign, we hope to examine how the current shutdown is affecting the air’s composition. Emissions have been reduced in recent weeks, particularly from the transport sector, but also from the industrial and energy sectors. As a result, the current situation offers the opportunity of testing models, under real-world conditions, for specifically reducing air pollutants.

Are the current changes having any impact on climate change?

The effects on climate change are certain to depend on how long emissions are reduced for. A sustained reduction in the greenhouse gas CO2 is needed to be able to contribute to achieving climate targets. Likewise for other climate pollutants, such as the short-lived greenhouse gases and aerosols, a positive effect on the climate will only occur if the reductions persist for the long term. The international dimension of the reduction and its comparatively long duration so far certainly present unique opportunities for observation which will allow us to bridge knowledge gaps.

ZeppelinThe Zeppelin NT airship on the airfield in Bonn-Hangelar
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Ralf Uwe Limbach

Further information on the measurement campaign as well as the latest image and video material can be found at:
“Coronavirus and Air Quality in the Rhineland”

We will soon be posting the flight routes and times on our Twitter accout.

Prof. Astrid Kiendler-Scharr
Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Troposphere (IEK-8)
Tel.: +49 2461 61-4692

Presse contact:
Erhard Zeiss, press officer
Tel.: +49 2461 61-1841