The National Observatory of Athens (NOA) is launching an international experiment in Crete to research the mechanism by which desert dust travels great distances and ends up in countries like Greece, in order to be able to assess its impact on health, the environment and certain sectors of the economy.
The experiment, called Pre-TECT, will kick off at the Greek atmospheric observatory of Finokalia on Crete on April 1 until April 30. Scientists will use sophisticated ground equipment as well as drones and a plane of the German Space Agency to gather data. Pre-TECT is clustered with a number of other atmospheric experiments that will be implemented during the same period in Eastern Mediterranean.
“The experimental Pre-TECT campaign concerns the study of the unknown mechanisms that affect the transport of desert dust from deserts to remote areas. Furthermore, the experiment will focus on physico-chemical properties of the dust, such as the rate of deposition on the soil. The data collected will be used for estimating the impact of the transferred desert dust on the solar dynamic, in cloud formation and climate change,” the experiment’s scientific director and senior researcher at NOA’s Institute for Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Applications and Remote Sensing (IAASARS), Vassilis Amiridis, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
Amiridis said the epidemiological studies of the last decade have documented that airborne particles are responsible for increased respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity, but also for the reduction of life expectancy and premature deaths. The dust also impacts the climate and environment of a region. For example, the deposition of dust in the oceans and the ground has an impact on fishing and agriculture respectively. “Improving our knowledge about the role of dust in the formation of clouds and rain will also have a great impact on predictive meteorology,” he said.
“Recent studies have shown that the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean and particularly Greece is at a crossroads of different air masses, with serious consequences for public health, ecosystems and the ongoing climate change,” he added.
According to Amiridis, Greece is strongly impacted by the extensive deserts of North Africa, such as the Sahara and the Sahel, from where huge amounts of dust are transferred with increased frequency in the spring. “This exacerbates the already loaded levels of particles from anthropogenic activities, especially in urban areas,” he explained.
Twenty-five institutes, universities and research facilities are participating in Pre-TECT (http://pre-tect.space.noa.gr/), among which the German Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) in Leibniz, Italy’s CNR-IMAA Atmospheric Observatory (CIAO), the French University of Lille, the Swiss Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium in Davos (PMOD) and the Britain’s UK Met Office.
Pre-TECH is funded by NOA and from a part of a donation made by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to NOA.