IAGOS: Successful Atmospheric Research
Jülich, 13 December 2022 – Commercial aircraft that collect important data for atmospheric research on their flights around the world: this is the idea behind the project IAGOS, which emerged from the research projects MOZAIC and CARIBIC in 2012, and became a European Research Infrastructure in 2014. Prof. Andreas Petzold from the Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Troposphere at Forschungszentrum Jülich is coordinator of IAGOS-D, Germany’s contribution to the IAGOS project. Today, State Secretary Judith Pirscher from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) visited Forschungszentrum Jülich to pay tribute to the successful work of IAGOS-D. Measuring instruments for atmosphere observation are currently installed on eight commercial aircraft from six airliners. IAGOS has developed into a unique global infrastructure for long-term global observations of our atmosphere within Earth system science.
The German partners involved in the IAGOS project (which is short for “In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System”) include Forschungszentrum Jülich, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Max Planck Society, German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS). IAGOS implements a dual approach: In the first approach, automated instruments are deployed on several aircraft to continuously measure the composition of air up to an altitude of 13 kilometres – to be more exact, the instruments measure the climate variables ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour, aerosols, and cloud particles (IAGOS-CORE). In the second approach, a modified cargo container on one of the Lufthansa Group’s aircraft is used to quantify trace gases and greenhouse gases that are laborious to measure (IAGOS-CARIBIC).
The recorded measurement data are transmitted to the central IAGOS database of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Toulouse. They are freely accessible to researchers around the world. Using these data, researchers can gain new insights into climate development and the composition of the atmosphere, identify long-term changes, improve the accuracy of climate models, and improve weather forecasts.
“IAGOS has developed into a research infrastructure of international standing and occupies a central place in the global system for observing the atmosphere. Thanks to our work with national and international research partners, we have succeeded in establishing an efficient infrastructure that is now transitioning to continuous operation, thus demonstrating the successful transfer of the idea to the infrastructure. The measurement data are currently used by around 300 organizations worldwide – and IAGOS hopes that our data will be used for even broader research in the future,” says Andreas Petzold.
BMBF has provided IAGOS with around € 18.7 million in funding since 2012. State Secretary Judith Pirscher was visibly impressed with all that has been achieved so far: “If we want to stop climate change, we have to understand it better. IAGOS, as a first-class and unique research infrastructure, is making a considerable contribution to this effort. It unites science and civil aviation in a very unique manner. Commercial aircraft bring the data directly from the atmosphere down to the ground. No additional, climate-damaging flights are necessary for the measurements. In this way, we gain globally valuable data for climate research, which also help to improve weather forecasts. This knowledge provides the basis for political decisions on climate protection and in adapting to the effects of climate change.”
There is a long-standing partnership between IAGOS and the Lufthansa Group. In July 2011, Lufthansa was the world’s first airline to take off with the new IAGOS measurement system on board of its Airbus A340-300. In autumn 2022, the third Lufthansa Group aircraft joined the atmospheric research mission. In 2023, aircraft from Air Canada and Iberia will join the IAGOS fleet and the new IAGOS-CARIBIC aircraft within the Lufthansa Group will also begin its flights.