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The “third pole” is melting

Aerosol taking part in ground breaking measurements 7 km above Mt. Everest

The Tibetan Plateau of China is a critical element of the planetary environment. Its influence on global climate had led to its description as the “Third Pole”.

The snow and ice cover of this region in winter-time has a global effect on patterns of long-range atmospheric circulation. Rivers originating in this region flow through, and provide water to, areas containing one-quarter of the world’s population. This region is currently facing a serious problem from high concentrations of pollution, including aerosol particles of “smoke”, which are transported onto the Tibetan Plateau from adjacent areas with high population density and strong emissions. These aerosols can directly impact the ecosystem and vegetation: but more seriously, the darkening of snow and ice can lead to premature thawing and the disappearance of glaciers.

To determine the sources and effects of this pollution, measurements of aerosol particles are essential and necessary. The Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has been measuring aerosols at ground-based monitoring sites across the region for several years. This work will now be expanded to study the atmosphere above the surface using a tethered balloon carrying instruments to measure the flow of pollutants from distant regions. The ground-level measurements, including a station at the Base Camp of Mt. Everest, use Aethalometer ® equipment developed by Aerosol d.o.o. The balloon profiling will use a unique research variant of this instrument, developed in Ljubljana.

The first series of research flights will be performed in May 2018 in the vicinity of Mount Everest. The Chinese research balloon will fly up to an altitude of 15 km above sea level. Data will be transmitted to the ground in real time, to allow the balloon operators to optimize the flying conditions. Dr. Matjaž Kobal, Head of R&D at Aerosol, will participate in the Mt. Everest balloon flight research program to operate the equipment and to analyze the data.

Instruments made by Aerosol have been already installed at the South Pole, Kashmir, Greenland, the Amazonian rainforest, and almost everywhere else. Our equipment is designed to perform exceptionally well even in the most demanding environments.

The “Tibetan Plateau Balloon Project” will generate ground breaking scientific data to support fundamental research into global pollution and climate change; and will help to support public policy decisions to improve air quality and water security for one-quarter of the global population. It will also foster further collaboration in areas of research, technology, education and science between Aerosol d.o.o. and the Chinese Academy of Science; and between Slovenia and China.


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