University Involved in Important Climate Research Program

Better forecasts for air quality, weather, and climate: The University of Bremen is one of eleven German institutions contributing to the EU research infrastructure ACTRIS. The scientific location of Bremen is being strengthened immensely in the German field of atmosphere and climate research.

In ACTRIS-D, many significant agents in German atmosphere research work together - these include universities, non-university research institutes, and authorities. The German part of the European research infrastructure is being coordinated by the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) in Leipzig. The University of Bremen is part of the central ACTRIS service facility CREGARDS and will operate three research stations. The university will provide the ACTRIS program with two types of measurements: Firstly, the measuring stations in Bremen, Paramaribo/Surinam, and Ny Alesund/Spitzbergen will record the trace gas concentrations of a number of substances within the entire atmosphere - from the Earth’s surface to the upper edge of the atmosphere - using solar absorption spectroscopy. Secondly, a mobile trace gas unit from the Bremen climate researchers will be used to record the latitude dependence or trace gas variations at certain locations over longer periods, for example.

Aim Is Better Data for Short-Life Atmosphere Components

The aim of the new research infrastructure ACTRIS (the acronym stands for Aerosol, Clouds, and Trace Gases Research Infrastructure) is to provide data regarding short-life atmospheric components of the atmosphere from the ground to the stratosphere. This is to contribute to reducing the uncertainties in future climate forecasts, improving the knowledge of climate feedback mechanisms, and assessing measures for the improvement of air quality and their effect on health and ecosystems.

ACTRIS is the basis European research infrastructure for short-life atmosphere components that expands on Earth system observations and research and provides society with knowledge for the development of sustainable solutions. These atmospheric components have a great influence on air quality and the climate. The short-life climate drivers are usually only in the atmosphere for a few hours or weeks - in contrast to the long-life greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which remain in the atmosphere for many years to decades. That is why the effects of long-life greenhouse gases are far better known than the short-life components, despite the fact that the latter also have an effect on the climate.

Short-Life Climate Drivers Have Very Different Effects

Tiny floating particles reflect sunlight and rays of warmth for example, or function as spores for the creating of cloud droplets and ice crystals, which in turn influences precipitation. By means of land usage, traffic, and energy creation, humans influence the short-life climate drivers that can have very different effects. For example, soot particles contribute to warming and sulfate and nitrate particles have a cooling effect. What is clear is that all of these factors influence the climate and need to be considered in the forecasts. Yet how large these very different effects are in the end is not yet known sufficiently.

Alongside their effect on the climate, short-life atmospheric components also have an immense effect on air quality and thus on human health. Floating particles, which is usually termed fine dust, and short-life trace gases, such as nitrogen oxide, lead to diseases of the respiratory system and reduce life expectancy due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The consequences that human activity has on the atmosphere - from each individual car to huge forest fires - can, however, only be estimated when measurements are taken continually and at many points over a large area, as the atmosphere does not adhere to national borders. That is why the pan-European initiative ACTRIS was included in the European road map for research infrastructures in 2016. From 2022 onwards, ACTRIS is to start its long-term work with its legal status as an ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium).

Over 75-Million-Euro Funding for ACTRIS-D

With the inclusion of the German part ACTRIS-D in the national road map for research infrastructures, Germany announced its contribution to the European research infrastructures in 2019. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding this initiative in the frame of the “Forschung für Nachhaltigkeit” (FONA) strategy and has begun the development of ACTRIS-D with initial funding amounting to around 75 million euros. With these means, numerous permanent and mobile measurement stations, as well as laboratories and simulation chambers, will be built or newly erected over the coming five years. A second funding phase for the complete creation of ACTRIS-D with funding of 11 million euros is planned for 2026 - 2029. Additionally, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) will make an important contribution by providing long-term funding for service facilities, such as the ACTRIS calibration centers.

More Than 100 Research Institutes Involved

Across Europe, more than 100 research institutes from 22 countries are involved in ACTRIS. They have a European network of more than 70 observatories, which is complemented by stations in the Polar regions, the Tropics, and Asia. There are also 18 simulation chambers and laboratories in Europe where atmospheric processes are simulated in experiments, as well as 17 mobile measurement platforms that can be used at different locations. ACTRIS is to offer a large user community effective access to its data, resources, and services, in order to enable high-quality Earth system research. It is not only the technology and scientific location of Europe that will profit from the free and open access but also environmental authorities, decision-making bodies, and thus citizens across Europe.

The following research institutes are involved in ACTRIS:

•    Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS), Leipzig, leading institute
•    Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research
•    Bergische Universität Wuppertal (BUW)
•    Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), Offenbach
•    Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH (FZJ)
•    Goethe University Frankfurt
•    Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
•    Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
•    Umweltbundesamt (UBA), Dessau
•    University of Bremen
•    University of Cologne

Further Information:

ACTRIS- the European Research Infrastructure for the observation of Aerosol, Clouds, and Trace gases:

Strategie „Forschung für Nachhaltigkeit" (FONA):   

Nationale Roadmap für Forschungsinfrastrukturen: (in Geman only)

Notes for the media:

High-definition photos that may be used free-of-charge by the media when the source is stated can be found at: (Photo: Tilo Arnhold, TROPOS / Dietrich Althausen, TROPOS)


Prof.Dr. Justus Notholt
Institute of Environmental Physics
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-62190
Email: jnotholtprotect me ?!iup.physik.uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Dr. Ulla Wandinger
Coordinator of the German contribution to ACTRIS and contact person at TROPOS for all European partners
Dr. Markus Hermann
Coordinator for the development of the German calibration centers
Tel. +49-341-2717-7082, -7071

equipment in front of sunset.
One of the pieces of equipment with which the climate researchers from the University of Bremen work at the station in Surinam is the “sun tracker.” With two mirrors, the equipment tracks the sun and directs the light downwards into the container holding the spectrometer.