AirCore flight successfully implemented by CAO and USRL teams

The geographical position of Cyprus is advantageous for measuring regional and long-range transported pollution from natural and anthropogenic sources of air masses from the neighbouring continents, i.e. Europe, Asia and Africa cross over Cyprus. AirCore is an innovative atmospheric sampling technique, specifically designed for acquiring vertical profiles of greenhouse gases concentrations by sampling air from the stratosphere down to the surface. The data received by AirCore are having a valuable contribution not only for the atmospheric inverse models, but also for the calibration of the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) and the validation of space-based instruments, like OCO-2/3, SP5/TROPOMI and GOSAT.
On 28 July 2022, an AirCore flight was pursued under Prof. Jean Sciare’s encouragement by teams of the Climate and Atmosphere Research Center (CARE-C). Specifically, the teams of CAO and USRL, worked together for the successful implementation of this AirCore flight. Such flights are taking place in Cyprus since 2020 in collaboration with LSCE and the French AirCore program.
A helium filled weather balloon carrying the AirCore, was released from Tseri area in Nicosia, reached 29 km altitude and after the balloon is released, the AirCore landed with a parachute at South of Klirou dam in Nicosia. The whole flight lasted about 2.5 hours and it was monitored with a radio-sounding system and several GPS trackers. After the recovery, the analysis of the sample took place promptly at the Cyprus Institute’s facilities, using a gas analyser by PICARRO. The meta-analysis for the calculation of the CO2, CH4 and CO vertical profiles, will be finalized at LSCE, in France.

Photos: Constantina Rousogenous, Pierre-Yves Quehe, Moreno Parolin and Nikoleta Lekaki

CAO welcomes University of Groningen team for ATMO-ACCESS funded TransNational Access visit

The ATMO-ACCESS project supports Trans-National Access to services offered by selected, first-class European atmospheric research facilities such as the CARE-C’s Cyprus Atmospheric Observatory (CAO) in Agia Marina Xyliatou (AMX). The CAO team were very happy to participate at the first TNA call this spring and welcome a team of scientists from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, for a project studying atmospheric nanoparticles.

Ph.D. Student Xinya Liu and technician Jan Mulder visited the CAO stations and CARE-C facilitates in order to get familiar with the Neutral cluster and Air Ion Spectrometer (Airel NAIS 522) and Particle Size Magnifier (PSM, Airmodus) instruments and their applications and data. Together these instruments are measuring the number size distribution of 1-42 nm particles and help us understand the rate and number of particles formed from atmospheric gases. Particle formation is responsible of producing ~50% of all particles that act as cloud condensation nuclei and can thus affect the climate indirectly.

First, Xinya and Jan joined the CAO tech team at our Troodos station for a maintenance visit, including the first maintenance for the recently installed NAIS-522. The Troodos instrument was successfully cleaned and the data is looking better than ever. After the cleaning operation, the team continued to AMX to familiarize themselves with the PSM and NAIS installations. The CAO team organized more training on the PSM with the help of University of Helsinki Ph.D. student Rima Baalbaki, who is concurrently visiting CyI. Lastly, Xinya and Jan familiarized themselves with the PSM instrument and software in details in our laboratory facilities in Nicosia campus. This knowledge transfer opportunity, made possible through TNA-access is vital for the Dutch team to make their own particle formation studies in the Netherlands in the future.

Moreno Parolin, Jan Mulder, Xinya Liu and Nikoleta Lekaki at CAO-Troodos station while cleaning the NAIS (photos by Nikoleta Lekaki)

Young students of the French-Cypriot school join CARE-C for a short internship

Alexandros and Pieter are two motivated young students from the French-Cypriot school in Nicosia. They joined a short internship at the CARE-C facilities in July to get to know what our researchers study at the Environmental Observations Department (EOD). They had a week to tour the Cyi facilities at Orounda airfield, CAO stations at Agia Marina Xyliatou and Nicosia and the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory at Nicosia campus.

The students watched a demonstration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) flights a tour Orunda site and after this exciting experience, they visited the nearby Agia Marina Xyliatou (AMX) station. AMX is hosting several research infrastructure measurements including aerosol observations for ACTRIS and AERONET. During the visit, Alexandros and Pieter helped with the fine dust aerosol spectrometer, FIDAS 200 (by PALAS, Germany), calibration that measures particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10). They also helped with Aethalometer (by MAGEE SCIENTIFIC) maintenance, that measures black carbon. Both PM and black carbon affect the climate and human health, which the students learned during their visit.

Moreover, Asst. Prof. Bourtsoukidis joined the station and explained them how the Proton transfer Reaction – Time of Flight – Mass Spectrometer (PTR-ToF-MS 4000; by Ionicon, Austria) instrument operates and how we can detect minute quantities of volatile organic compounds from the air. CAO team explained the young students the idea and the vision of CAO, show them all instruments that they are located at AMX (Rafail Konatzi & Nikoleta Lekaki) and Nicosia (Moreno Parolin & Pierre-Yves Quehe) station. Finally yet importantly, Konstantina Oikonomou from Chemistry laboratory at Nicosia campus demonstrated and taught the students how we are treating atmospheric filter samples and familiarised them with the techniques that the laboratory is using.

Alexandros Sciare, Pieter Rotteveel, Rafail Konatzi doing maintenance at CAO-AMX (left) AND Asst. Prof. Efstratios Bourtsoukidis introducing the PTR-MS instrument to the students (right) (photos by Nikoleta Lekaki)

CAO joins pan-European study on Ozone

It is mid-July 2022, and yet another heatwave covers most of the European continent. As those heatwaves become more and more frequent in a warming climate, they are usually accompanied with abnormally high Ozone concentrations – at the time of writing – Ozone concentrations are at 58 ppb (part-per-billion) at CAO-AMX background station. Exceeding 60 ppb for 8h in a day, violates the EU air quality standards and can result to legal implications.

Ozone is a major air pollutant, one of two (with particulate matter) primarily responsible for air quality related hospitalizations and global mortality. Ozone has also a complex formation mechanism, which is not directly emitted by any natural or human activity. It is the result of photochemistry involving nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs, e.g. terpenes that give there smell to plants and trees, or solvents, benzene and thousands of other species emitted by human activities and products).

To this date, this complex and non-linear chemistry involved in the formation of Ozone is still not fully captured in computer models. A case study for summer 2018 shows how model predictions were well below the observed Ozone levels across Europe.

To eliminate this knowledge gap, the co-operative program for monitoring and evaluation of the long-range transmission of air pollutants in Europe (EMEP) has organized a Pan-European study to monitor both Ozone and its precursors (NO, NO­2 and VOCs). 30 stations across Europe are joining this intense campaign, among them CAO-AMX of CARE-C of The Cyprus Institute, the only station located East of Austria and Estonia.

In Cyprus, the Cyprus Atmospheric Observatory (CAO) and the Department of Labor Inspection (DLI) are collaborating to ensure that during the period of the study (starting July 12th), a complete and quality dataset will be obtained through the observatory at Agia-Marina Xyliatou. CAO is monitoring oxygenated VOCs (PTR-ToF-MS) while DLI is monitoring Ozone (UV absorption), Nitrogen Oxides (chemiluminescence), hydrocarbon (GC-FID), elemental and organic carbon (filter analysis).

With this dataset, the modeling community will be able to better constrain the Ozone formation, and potentially fill the knowledge gap leading until now to inaccurate Ozone predictions.

Karsa Ltd research visit at CAO

The first research project supported by the ATMO-ACCESS TransNational Access project (https://www.atmo-access.eu/) has been completed at CAO-AMX station. The CAO team hosted Mr. Jyri Mikkilä from Karsa Ltd (http://karsa.fi/) which is a Finnish spin-off company targeting to develop methodologies for homeland security application. Their powerful molecular detection technology has applications beyond homeland security and thus this project was designed to provide new tools for climate research. The detailed describtion of the project is depicted below:

Gas phase compounds of low volatility such as sulfuric acid and iodic acid are capable of condensing and forming new aerosol particles in nanometre diameter ranges (Kulmala et al., Science, 2013 and Sipilä et al., Nature, 2016). These particles can grow larger in diameter by condensation of e.g. highly oxygenated organic molecules (HOM) (Ehn et al., Nature, 2014) and affect climate by reflecting solar radiation or by acting as cloud condensation nuclei (IPCC, 6th report, 2021). The measurements of these aforementioned compounds can be conducted using new high-resolution mass spectrometric devices with selective chemical ionization techniques (Jokinen et al., 2012). However, even with new technologies, aerosol precursor measurements from ambient air are relatively rare due to the high instrumental cost and complexity to run the mass spectrometer for long, uninterrupted time periods. Thus, the aim of this study is to explore alternative, portable and cost-efficient methods on aerosol precursor compound detection using filter sampling coupled with a newly developed multi-scheme chemical ionization inlet (MION) – mass spectrometer (Rissanen et al., AMT, 2019). Similar method has been explored in laboratory experiments for the detection of explosives such as nitro-glycerine.

The first filters are already collected during the winter from the SMEAR I station in the Finnish Lapland, where the filters were detected to contain sulfuric acid in minute quantities, but no iodic acid or HOM signals were detected due to lack of solar radiation or iodine and HOM source during the time of measurements. We chose CAO station in Cyprus because it serves as an ideal location to measure aerosol precursors in the close proximity of the Mediterranean Sea as a source of iodine compounds and frequent new particle formation events at the site (Baalbaki et al., ACP, 2020). This project is designed to serve as a proof-of-concept study of the filter sampling that it is suitable for iodic acid and possibly HOM collection on top of sulfuric acid sampling and that it is deployable in different environments (Finnish sub-Arctic and Mediterranean). We also aim to analyse the filters for traces explosive materials that could be found at the site because of the military shooting practise range close to the field site.

Successful execution of this project will help us develop a portable, low cost method to detect aerosol forming compounds and possibly also traces of explosives. This new method has potential to gain larger spatial coverage of aerosol precursor observations from locations that are currently geographically under-presented in atmospheric models due to lack of funds to purchase state-of-the-art mass spectrometers. We also see a possibility to develop the method to utilize it in security research. The results from this study will be published together with the results obtained from the Finnish SMEAR I station after the CAO campaign.

All together we collected 14 samples with time resolution from 3 to 20 hours. The samples are being analysed in Finland as we speak. The CAO team thanks Jyri and Karsa Ltd for this new exciting collaboration and we are expecting for your next visit in the autumn!

Article Photo: Jyri Mikkilä from Karsa Ltd showing filter holders that were installed at CAO-AMX.

New instrumentation at CAO-Agia Marina station

In the process of building a denser network of environmental observatories for sizing particles we installed a Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS) and a water-based Condensation Particle Counter (TSI Model 3783) to CAO-AMX station on March 29, 2022.

Continue reading

© 2020 The Cyprus Institute. All rights reserved