Commission launches air pollution monitoring station on the high seas

November 7, 2005

Brussels, 04 Nov 2005

The European Commission has teamed up with an Italian shipping company to launch an innovative air pollution monitoring station on the high seas, in order to better understand the effects of man-made pollution on climate change in the Mediterranean.

Experts from the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) installed the monitoring station on the cruise ship 'Costa Fortuna', owned by the Italian shipping line Costa Crociere. It will provide valuable data based on over-sea measurements, which are currently scarce, as the cruise ship follows its regular route in the western Mediterranean basin during spring, summer and autumn.

European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, welcomed the initiative, saying 'this partnership is a good example of the private and public sectors working together to find new ways of obtaining data which is important for our understanding of climate change'.

While the Mediterranean's warm dry climate attracts millions of tourists each year, the lack of rainfall puts a strain on agriculture, ecosystems and drinking water resources in the region. Model calculations suggest that greenhouse gases from man-made sources will further reduce rainfall in the area, leading to increased instances of drought.

As well as generating long-living greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, human activities also lead to short-lived air pollutants in the lower atmosphere such as ozone and light-absorbing particles, also known as black carbon. Sources of such pollution in the Mediterranean Basin include air pollution from urban centres along the coast, long-range transport and shipping traffic.

It is believed that the increased light absorption caused by such forms of air pollution leads to the heating of the lower atmosphere, which in turn reduces rain clouds and intensifies droughts. Previous research suggests that the impact of aerosols on radiation in the Mediterranean is among the highest in the world, making it an ideal study site for climate change research.

The data that will be provided by the monitoring station on board Costa Fortuna is urgently needed by scientists to check whether their computer models of the atmosphere can be confirmed in real-world observations. According to the Commission, the results will enable the EU and its Member States to improve their climate change and air pollution policies.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001
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