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Aerosol pollution kills 6-9 million people each year, 300.000 in Europe alone. In comparison, COVID-19 has killed over 6 million people globally since the pandemic began. Moreover, aerosol pollution is known as one of the main factors destabilizing Earth’s climate.
World environmental and climate change experts confirm that reducing released carbon emissions form fossil fuels is the important part of combatting climate change. But researchers also claime, that recently it was mistakenly declared that biomass burning is a carbon-neutral source of energy. As scientists emphasize, in reality the burning of biomass emits wide ranges of aerosol particles and gases into the atmosphere, which significantly affects regional air quality, global atmospheric chemistry, biogeochemical cycles and Earth's radiative budget.
The largest centre of the scientific research and innovations in the Baltic States - Center for Physical Sciences and Technology (FTMC) together with University of Warsaw, Faculty of Physics starts the project: “Importance of long-range transport of BIO mass burning emissions to local Smog events in Urban Environments (BIOSURE)”. This unique international investigation under the leadership of prof. Iwona Stachlewska (University of Warsaw) and dr. Steigvilė Byčenkienė (FTMC) will provide an unique possibility separately to evaluate the importance of local and long-range transport of biomass burning-related aerosol to the air quality in urban environments. The project will be held from 2021.06.01 to 2023.05.31.
This project goes as the part of Lithuanian and Poland joint research project "DAINA 2" in Lithuania. There have been submitted 133 applications for this project competition. 92 applications - the largest number - were in the field of natural sciences, technology, medical and health sciences and agricultural sciences panels. 41 applications for the research in the field of humanities and social sciences panel. It was decided to allocate funding only for 11 projects for a total amount of 1.26 mln. eur.
“Our interdisciplinary team of high quality experts i s a part of a new trend in aerosol science. And it was a great success and opportunity for continuing, deepening and developing our scientific research for us as environmental and climate change researchers. The project importance is related to several recent hot topics and it urges to boost Polish-Lithuanian research in aerosol and air pollution field. These challenging scientific objectives force the originality of this fundamental research project, bringing together two research groups specializing in aerosol remote sensing at University of Warsaw in Poland and aerosol in-situ observations at the FTMC in Lithuania.” – says FTMC dr. Steigvilė Byčenkienė, Head of Department of Environmental Research
In Poland the research related to long-range transport of biomass burning of aerosol particles has been developing during the last five years, tells prof. Iwona Stachlewska from University of Warsaw, Faculty of Physics:
“The RS-Lab group has a significant impact in this field in terms of Raman lidar (light detection and ranging) and sun-photometer use. The interaction of aerosol particles with sun radiation and clouds strongly depends on aerosol scattering and absorption capabilities and on their vertical distribution along the atmospheric column. In particular, biomass burning particles can have opposite behavior, depending on their content on organic and black carbon, their size, and spatial distribution. Crucial for our study are joint observations that will allow to study the modification of the aerosol properties due to their transport.”
During the project “Importance of long-range transport of BIO mass burning emissions to local Smog events in Urban Environments (BIOSURE)” excellent staff capacities of FTMC and RS-Lab will form a joint-research team of experienced and young researchers. Observations will be conducted during dedicated joint field experiments with focus on winter smog vs summer photo-smog conditions and during the long-term study. Measurements will be done in two cities Vilnius and Warsaw, characterized by distinctly different urban air-pollution conditions.
In terms of human exposure to emission sources such as transport and wood burning, black carbon particles are becoming an increasingly relevant air contaminant. FTMC dr. S. Byčenkienė emphasised, that black carbon is the main component of fine aerosol particles and is found to be more harmful than PM2.5.
“It can easily penetrate the lungs due to its smaller size while its large surface area makes it excellent medium for the absorption of combustion by-products. These toxic compounds enter the bloodstream and eventually end up in the human brain. We aim at the long-term assessments (at least 12 months of 24/7 observations) for which basis will be a statistical approach characterizing seasonality of aerosols at the two sites. Both the aerosol transport pathways and the aerosol optical and microphysical properties will be assessed.” – says FTMC environmental expert.
According to prof. I. Stachlewska, during this study scientists will be use two modern Raman-polarization lidar systems. The first, PollyXT lidar is operated at RS-Lab in Warsaw and provides the high-quality profiles of aerosol optical properties to the pan-European Aerosol Cloud and Trace Gases (ACTRIS) Research Infrastructure. The second, mobile EMORAL lidar was built for European Space Agency (ESA) and will be operated by RS-lab staff during summer and winter filed campaigns in Vilnius at FTMC.
Lidar observations will be completed at both Lithuanian and Polish sites with sun-photometer data that will be provided to Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and modern in-situ measurements. This will ensure the similar research equipment capabilities so needed for the challenging assessments of the aerosol modifications.
Photos: Patryk Poczta