June 2006 Downloads & Links

WMO GAW Global Air Chemistry Observatory at Cape Grim, Australia—30th anniversary 


On 11 April 2006, 30 years of continuous operation of the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station were celebrated. Cape Grim is situated on the north-west tip of Tasmania in the famous “roaring forties” wind belt of the southern hemisphere. The observatory has played a critical role in detecting and understanding changes in atmospheric composition in the southern atmosphere related to climate change. It is amongst the five oldest stations in a 24-station network of global observatories coordinated by the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) programme.


Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station looking south, towards
Woolnorth Windfarm. © Richard Bennett & Bureau of Meteorology


The station is funded and operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the science programme is jointly managed with Marine and Atmospheric Research of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Researchers from the University of Wollongong, the University of Tasmania and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation also participate.  The celebrations on 11 April involved many of the current and past staff and scientists, as well as representatives from the South African, Chinese, Indonesian and Malaysian GAW stations. The Chief of the WMO Environment Division, with responsibility for the WMO-GAW programme also attended, unveiling with Australian dignitaries a commemorative plaque and giving a keynote address.   

Unveiling of commemorative plaque on Cape Grim’s 30th anniversary as a global
atmospheric chemistry observatory © Brett Dawes

Cape Grim commenced operations in a borrowed US National Aeronautics and Space Administration caravan in April 1976. One of the first gases monitored was carbon dioxide. Measurements of ozone-depleting substances began in 1978, creating one of the longest continuous records of these gases in the world. Also since 1976, regular samples of clean air have been collected and stored in an archive at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, creating a unique library of clean air used by scientists around the world for probing changes in the atmosphere. In 30 years, Cape Grim research has hosted a number of large international experiments under the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, assessing aerosol chemistry, cloud and oxidation processes in the remote marine boundary layer. Most recently, it hosted the research campaign “Precursors to particles 2006”, involving groups from Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the USA working together under the Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS) project.      





Trends in the atmosphere observed at Cape Grim of (a) carbon dioxide, the most prominent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and (b) CFC 11, a major ozone destroying chemical controlled under the Montreal Protocol.  Carbon dioxide continues to increase while the growth in CFCs has been stopped through widely-supported measures taken by nations and industry  to eliminate use of ozone destroying substances. The controls were enacted under the Vienna Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985) through its Montreal Protocol (1987) and subsequent amendments.  


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