EU invests 10 million euros into a research infrastructure for aerosols, clouds and trace gases

Leipzig, 03.06.2015

TROPOS coordinates remote sensing and the European Centre for Aerosol Calibration in ACTRIS-2.

Brussels / Leipzig. The European Commission will fund the research infrastructure ACTRIS-2 with a total of 9.5 million euros until 2019. Thus, the existing network of ground-based long-term observatories for aerosols, clouds and trace gases can be further expanded. With long-term observations ACTRIS-2 contributes to climate-change research and the control of measures to improve air quality. The ACTRIS-2 Kick-off Meeting will be held in Rome from 3rd to 5th June 2015, hosted by the National Research Council (CNR) of Italy.


A total of 31 partners from 21 European countries are participating in the "Aerosols, Clouds, and Trace gases Research Infrastructure" (ACTRIS-2). The Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) assumes coordination in the field of remote sensing and will operate the European Calibration Centre for Aerosol Physics in Leipzig. In addition, the institute opens its research station at Melpitz near Leipzig for international scientists to perform research projects. With almost 800,000 euros, TROPOS obtains the highest funding of a single institute in the consortium. From Germany also the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the University of Cologne and the German Meteorological Service (DWD) are partners of ACTRIS-2. Two renowned institutes from Switzerland are involved as well: the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa).


ACTRIS-2 examines three essential factors of climate change and air quality: Natural and anthropogenic aerosols (e.g., particulate matter from traffic and industrial emissions, desert and soil dust, smoke from forest fires or volcanic ash) have very different concentrations in Europe, but play a major role for health and in the climate system of the Earth. The same is true for trace gases such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Clouds are still one of the largest sources of uncertainties in climate models, as it is unclear how their properties and their appearance will change in a changing climate. Health effects caused by air pollution and potential damage due to climate change are the major environmental challenges faced by the European Union in the coming decades. Therefore, the observation of long-term trends in the atmosphere is crucial in order to improve our knowledge of processes and take appropriate measures. ACTRIS-2 investigates the atmosphere from the ground up to the upper troposphere at altitudes of about 10 kilometers and thus provides insights that are unique in the European research landscape. Simultaneously, it complements three other EU research infrastructures in the field of environmental sciences: ICOS, which focuses on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, SIOS, which examines the Arctic from Svalbard, and IAGOS, which surveys atmospheric gases and particles by airliners.


TROPOS as one of the world's leading institutions in aerosol and cloud research has already been active in several previous projects of ACTRIS: EARLINET (European Aerosol Research Lidar Network) was established in 2000 as the first aerosol lidar network, which gathers data of the vertical distribution of optical aerosol properties at a continental scale. Cloudnet was founded in 2001 and is dedicated to the continuous analysis of cloud properties by radar remote sensing. Near-surface measurements of aerosols have been coordinated across Europe in the project EUSAAR (European Super Sites for Atmospheric Aerosol Research) since 2006. All three networks have become part of the European research infrastructure ACTRIS, which now enters into the second phase of the EU funding.


An important element of international cooperation is the transnational access (TNA) to experimental stations, which offers opportunities to researchers to access research facilities with an excellent combination of advanced instruments and expertise. In ACTRIS-2 the TROPOS research station Melpitz is now at one level with international stations like Jungfrauchjoch (Switzerland), Cabauw (Netherlands) or Maïdo (Reunion). Beside aerosol and trace-gas measurements at Melpitz, TROPOS contributes to ACTRIS with measurements from its remote-sensing station equipped with advanced lidar and cloud radar devices and with data of the German monitoring network of ultrafine particles (GUAN). The Leipzig aerosol researchers already operate the World Calibration Center for Aerosol Physics (WCCAP) on behalf of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and with the support of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Measuring equipment for particulate matter from around the world is calibrated there. In future, under the ACTRIS European Centre for Aerosol Calibration, the responsibility will be extended to the entire European network.

Tilo Arnhold







GAW & World Calibration Center for Aerosol Physics  (WCCAP)

TROPOS research station Melpitz


European Research Infrastructures help to solve air quality issues (Press release,15-Apr-2013):


The Leibniz Association connects 89 independent research institutions that range in focus from the natural, engineering and environmental sciences via economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities. Leibniz Institutes address issues of social, economic and ecological relevance. They conduct knowledge-driven and applied basic research, maintain scientific infrastructure and provide research-based services. The Leibniz Association identifies focus areas for knowledge transfer to policy-makers, academia, business and the public. Leibniz Institutes collaborate intensively with universities – in the form of “WissenschaftsCampi” (thematic partnerships between university and non-university research institutes), for example – as well as with industry and other partners at home and abroad. They are subject to an independent evaluation procedure that is unparalleled in its transparency. Due to the institutes’ importance for the country as a whole, they are funded jointly by the Federation and the Länder, employing some 18,100 individuals, including 9,200 researchers. The entire budget of all the institutes is approximately 1.64 billion EUR.