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Climate Data Records on atmospheric composition

Research Topic Chapter
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Changes in the Earth system induced by human activities and their impact on life and natural environment are amongst the greatest current environmental challenges. Over the last decade, BIRA-IASB has been involved in several important initiatives to monitor atmospheric composition changes at the global scale based on long-term satellite observations. In these projects, Climate Data Records of various atmospheric pollutants have been generated, quality-assessed, and used in support of scientific studies, environmental assessments, and for raising general public awareness.
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Several important initiatives have been undertaken over the last years aiming at generating high-quality long-term data series of Essential Climate Variables (EVCs).

In the atmospheric domain, BIRA-IASB has been involved in several such activities, with a focus on establishing new high-quality standards for the monitoring of key climate-related species such as:

  • green-house gases (CO2 and CH4)
  • ozone and aerosols
  • their precursors, NO2, HCHO and SO2

These activities are being developed in the framework of important international programmes and projects, such as:

  • ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI)
  • Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)
  • EU projects QA4ECV and GAIA-CLIM.

In all these projects, a strong focus is put on the generation of highly accurate data series of observations derived from multiple satellite sensors, allowing for improved determination of the long-term variability and trends in key atmospheric variables (see e.g. Figure 1). This also implies the development of advanced quality assurance frameworks allowing for in-depth assessment of uncertainties and full traceability in data production and delivery.

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Figure 1: Multi-sensor observations of formaldehyde HCHO columns over Northern India between 2003 and 2018, showing the long-term increase in the concentration of volatile organic compounds in this part of the world. This analysis has been performed as part of the EU QA4ECV project.