The CNR-ISAC observation network for pollution and climate studies: the importance of black carbon monitoring
The Mediterranean Basin is a climatic hot spot where the impacts of global change are exacerbated and can heavily influence environmental conditions and ecosystem survival. The temperature increase and the rainfall frequency reduction are few of the changes that cause damage to the environment, agriculture, fishing and human health.
The CNR-ISAC has developed a network observatories for climate and environment with the aim to gather valuable information on the variability of short-lived (e.g. ozone, black carbon, CH4) and long-lived (e.g. CO2) climate forcing, in order to identify the factors that influence their spatio-temporal distribution and allow adequate studies on atmospheric composition and the air quality climate connections. The network is distributed over the national territory and provides observations in representative environments of the Mediterranean basin: urban background in Lecce and Bologna, coastal environment in Lamezia Terme, remote marine in Capo Granitola and a high altitude site, Monte Cimone (2165 m asl), representative of Mediterranean background. The ISAC observation network is part of the Global Atmospheric Watch program of the World Meteorological Organization (GAW-WMO) and is also part of international research infrastructures such as ACTRIS and ICOS; the data produced are also made available to stakeholders at local, regional, national and international level.
Among the compounds measured, Black Carbon (BC) is particularly attentive: high concentrations in the atmosphere are able to produce harmful impacts on humans and the climate. Emitted as atmospheric particulate by the incomplete combustion processes of biomass as well as by fossil fuels or bio-fuels, it is considered an important pollutant. Although still among the "non-regulated" compounds, from the health point of view it is recognized by the World Health Organization as a pollutant harmful to human health. Epidemiological studies have in fact shown that it is associated with a greater health outcome than atmospheric PM as a whole, also acting as a carrier / carrier for a wide variety of compounds particularly harmful to human health.
BC is also one of the main Short Lived Climate Forcer and because it acts like a greenhouse gas by heating the atmosphere; unlike long-lived greenhouse gases, it has significantly shorter residence times and its typical spatial influence is at the regional level. For this reason, UNEP, the United Nations Organization for Environmental Protection, considers its mitigation important in order to help to contain the temperature increase towards the long-term objectives indicated by the Paris Agreement of December 2017.
In this work, a brief overview of the aforementioned observation network is provided and the BC space-time trends recorded are presented, framing them in the climatic and air quality areas, considered two sides of the same problem.
Petzold, A, Schloesser H, Sheridan PJ Arnott P, Ogren JA and Virkkula A. Evaluation of Multiangle Absorption Photometry for Measuring Aerosol Light Absorption. DOI: 10.1080/027868290901945, Aerosol Science and Technology, 39:40–51, 2005
WHO: Evidence on health aspects of air pollution to review EU policies - REVIHAAP Evidence on health aspects of air pollution to review EU policies - REVIHAAP, Tech. rep., European Centre for Environment and Health, 2013.