Press release

ASTAR 2007 – Alfred Wegener Institute and German Aerospace Center send aircraft on Arctic mission

[11. April 2007] 

Arctic atmosphere very clean this year

Under the direction of two of the Helmholtz Centres, i.e. the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the German Aerospace Center, an international research group is currently investigating the Arctic atmosphere above Spitsbergen. Aim of this year’s ASTAR 2007 project (Arctic Study of Tropospheric Aerosol, Clouds and Radiation) is an accurate description of the Arctic atmosphere during spring.

Until April 17, scientists from nine countries will examine the Arctic atmosphere, specifically small suspended particles, so-called aerosols, and clouds in order to improve our understanding of the radiation dynamics in the atmosphere, and their impact on climate. Aerosols represent minute airborne substances which, through absorption or reflection of solar radiation have a direct influence on the climate. In addition, they may have indirect climate effects by acting as crystallisation nuclei in the formation of clouds.  Furthermore, the data collected during this campaign will provide an important contribution to assessment of data from the satellite CALIPSO. Since April 28, 2006, this satellite has been travelling in a polar orbit, observing clouds and aerosols above the Arctic from space.

Measurements will be carried out using research aircraft of the Alfred Wegener Institute (Polar 2), and of the German Aerospace Center (Falcon). Both aircraft are taking off and landing in Longyearbyen, and flights are synchronised with the flight path of the satellite CALIPSO above. In the research town of Ny-Ålesund, 120 kilometres away, researchers support the campaign through ground-based measurements.

First results from recording flights to date indicate that, compared to previous years, the Arctic atmosphere this year is very clean. Nevertheless, at several kilometres altitude, pollution residues from Central and Eastern Europe were detected. The data collected during ASTAR 2007 will aid in the evaluation of CALIPSO measurements, and will improve our understanding of transport of air-masses between the Arctic and temperate latitudes.

The ASTAR project is supported by the German Research Foundation, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and the French Polar Research Institute IPEV as part of the French-German Arctic Research Base.

Bremerhaven, April 11th, 2007
Please send us a copy of any published version of this document.

Notes for editors:
Your contact persons at the Alfred Wegener Institute are Dr Andreas Herber (Tel: ++47-79023578, email: Andreas.Herber@awi.de and, in the public relations department, Dr Ude Cieluch (Tel: ++49-471-4831-2008, email: medien@awi.de). At the German Aerospace Center, you can contact Miriam Kamin (Tel: ++49-8153/282297, email: miriam.kamin@dlr.de).

The Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and in oceans of temperate and high latitudes. The AWI coordinates polar research in Germany, and provides important infrastructure, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic for international scientific enterprises. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of 15 research centres of the 'Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft' (Helmholtz Association), the largest scientific organisation in Germany.


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Das Institut

Das Alfred-Wegener-Institut forscht in den Polarregionen und Ozeanen der mittleren und hohen Breiten. Als eines von 19 Forschungszentren der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft koordiniert es Deutschlands Polarforschung und stellt Schiffe wie den Forschungseisbrecher Polarstern und Stationen für die internationale Wissenschaft zur Verfügung.