You are here: Home Activities POLARCAT - Norway
Document Actions


last modified 2007-05-06 23:11

Overview of the POLARCAT-Norway activities


Coordination of POLARCAT is conducted under the POLARCAT-Norway activities (WP1). POLARCAT has received full endorsement from the IPY ICSU/WMO Joint Committee and is also endorsed, supported and overseen by four long-term international programs (IGAC: International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Project; SPARC: Stratospheric Processes and their Role in Climate; iLEAPS: Integrated Land Ecosystem – Atmosphere Processes Study; AMAP: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme). POLARCAT is described in detail in a so-called White Paper that reflects the status as of June 2005.


The overall goal of POLARCAT is to study the role of long-range poleward transport of aerosols and trace gases for climate change in the Arctic. Some particular objectives are to:

  • better characterize the transport pathways and sources of pollution entering the Arctic troposphere, including quantification of the residence times of polluted air masses in the polar dome.
  • determine the vertical layering of Arctic pollution and the associated optical properties of Arctic aerosol particles and estimate how source regions change with altitude.
  • study the seasonal and interannual variability of transport pathways and removal processes for aerosols and pollutants, and investigate likely changes in a future climate.
  • characterize the direct radiative effects (solar and terrestrial) of pollution layers in the Arctic.
  • investigate the interactions of aerosols with clouds (e.g., their role as ice nuclei), and the associated indirect radiative forcing.
  • study the impact of boreal forest fire emissions on the chemical composition of the Arctic troposphere and radiative transfer.
  • quantify the albedo changes of snow and ice surfaces and resulting radiative effects due to the deposition of black carbon (BC) from anthropogenic fossil fuel and biomass burning sources.
  • determine the fate and effects of aerosols and chemical compounds injected into the stratosphere by pyro-convection, including their role for ozone formation and ozone depletion in the polar stratosphere.
  • validate aerosol, trace gas, and cloud products from satellite observations.

Major POLARCAT activities

POLARCAT will carry out three major (and a few smaller) co-ordinated measurement campaigns in the Arctic, two in later winter/early spring 2007 and 2008, and one in summer 2008. The main objectives for the winter/spring campaigns are to revisit the Arctic Haze phenomenon and study its climate impact by performing air- and shipborne measurements with modern instrumentation, and to explore the transition from the dark winter to the photochemically active spring. The summer campaign will explore transport of boreal forest fire pollution plumes into the Arctic to characterize their radiative effects in the atmosphere and via changes in snow/ice albedo. Asian, European and North American anthropogenic contributions to gaseous pollutants and aerosols shall also be determined. The campaigns will involve about 10 aircraft, a ship, and Arctic surface stations, for which long-term studies will also be made. In addition, data from a large suite of satellite platforms will be analyzed and new satellite products developed, and a suite of models will be used to interpret the data.

Current status of POLARCAT-International

(at time of submission)

The POLARCAT community has during the last 18 months put significant efforts into the planning for the IPY. This includes two international workshops: one at NILU in May 2005 (supported by the EU ACCENT Network of Excellence) and one in San Francisco in December 2005. Other meetings will be held in Vienna in April 2006 and in Capetown in September 2006. An international steering committee was elected, the White Paper was written and a project webpage was set up. To date, close to 100 institutes have joined POLARCAT and important progress has been made to secure funding of core activities. The first campaign, headed by two German institutes (Alfred- Wegener Institute, AWI, and Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt, DLR), will be the largest experiment so far of the ASTAR (Arctic Study on Tropospheric Aerosol and Radiation) series. Except for the Norwegian contribution, it is funded and scheduled for 19 March-19 April 2007 (see letters from A. Herber and A. Minikin). Since it will involve two aircraft based in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, it is of special relevance for this proposal. A Canadian aircraft study (J. Whiteway, personal communication) of pyro-cumulonimbus clouds is also already funded. NOAA (U.S.A. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will take 32 scientists on the research vessel R.H. Brown to the Greenland, Norwegian and Barents Sea in March 2008 (see letter) and will contribute also with smaller aircraft campaigns. NASA (U.S.A. National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is planning aircraft campaigns in winter/spring and summer 2008 (see their ARCTAS White Paper, which is directly linked to POLARCAT). Chances are very good (H. Schlager, personal communication) that DLR will also participate in the summer 2008 campaign (Svalbard is a possible base). A French aircraft campaign is funded, another one proposed; a Finnish study using station measurements in the Finnish Arctic is funded already. Canadian aircraft campaigns are being proposed at the time of this writing. In addition to these efforts to secure the necessary infrastructure, a large number of proposed studies are under consideration by various national agencies (e.g., several in Canada, France, Germany, Russia, U.S.A., etc.). Some of them plan to use aircraft, others propose model studies, measurements at surface stations (Alert, Barrow, Summit, Zeppelin), satellite data analyses, or analyses of existing data. In summary, several of the rather expensive platforms for executing POLARCAT have been secured already and others will very likely be available. POLARCAT, at an international level, is proceeding very well!

Relevance for Norway, legacy

NILU was among the pioneers in Arctic pollution research, and the legacy of the activities undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s (see the special issue of Atmospheric Environment (Rahn, 1989), dedicated to Brynjulf Ottar, the first director of NILU) has later been succeeded by lead contributions to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP, 1998; AMAP 2006). A major asset of POLARCAT-Norway is to sustain and further develop the national competence related to Arctic air pollution. It will make strong use of Norwegian (including historical) data and will expose these data to a large international scientific community. It will build legacy by starting new measurements at Andøya and Svalbard, by providing a 40-year record of highest-quality model analyses of transport to Svalbard, and by giving a complete snapshot of the current state of the troposphere around Svalbard and other parts of the Arctic for future reference. It will bring at least one major aircraft campaign and a very well equipped research vessel to Svalbard. The airborne measurements will add value to the surface measurements at Svalbard by extending them into the vertical. POLARCAT-Norway also has a strong Russian participation, thus strengthening the links between the two scientific communities. Norway has an excellent expertise in atmospheric chemistry and aerosol modeling and the POLARCAT dataset will allow further developing this expertise.

POLARCAT addresses questions (aerosols, long-range pollution transport, climate change processes, time series analyses) that are considered critical for Norway (e.g., Miljøverndepartement, 2005: Katalog over Miljøverndepartementets viktigste kunnskapsbehov 2005-2009; Forskingsråd, 2003: Lange tidsserier for miljøovervåking og forskning). POLARCAT will, thus, enable Norwegian researchers and national authorities to play a lead role in Arctic pollution and climate reseach, assessments, and development of abatement measures in the decades to come. POLARCAT is also 4 a very effective enterprise for Norway because the high costs of the aircraft operations will be covered mainly by the international partners.

POLARCAT-Norway will target the education of the next generation of researchers by giving Norwegian students the opportunity of participating in an international campaign by helping with the release of highly sophisticated Lagrangian balloons. It will also develop an e-learning module, integrated with related activities undertaken by the ACCENT Network of Excellence, to introduce undergraduate students as well as policy makers to Arctic meteorology and air pollution problems.

Data policy

POLARCAT-Norway will follow the IPY data policy.

Work plan

The work planned for POLARCAT-Norway is organized in nine connected work packages (WP): Coordination (WP 1), historical, current and new measurements at Svalbard (WP 2), balloon launches from Svalbard (WP 3), the role of boreal forest fires (WP 4), studies in the Russian Arctic (WP 5), optical characterization of Arctic aerosols (WP 6), climate influence of Arctic aerosols (WP 7), and synthesis of the international POLARCAT findings (WP 8).

Related content

Personal tools

Norwegian Institute for Air Research : PO Box 100, 2027-Kjeller, Norway : +47 63 89 80 80

Powered by Plone CMS, the Open Source Content Management System