Spain Joins ICOS initiative – European Network For Measuring Greenhouse Gasses


Spain has signed up to the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS). This research infrastructure, financed by European countries, measures greenhouse gasses (GHG), such as carbon dioxide, throughout the European continent and adjacent oceans.

The measuring of greenhouse gasses is very important, as excessive quantities of these gasses which heat up the atmosphere stem from the use of fossil fuels, agriculture and other human activities. If this is not halted quickly, climate change will have harsh consequences for nature and mankind.

Spain will gradually add eight measuring stations to the network. Two of these eight stations measure dissolved carbon in adjacent maritime zones; two provide data on carbon exchanges in ecosystems, and four measure greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. As for all ICOS information, the Spanish data are freely available on the Carbon Portal of ICOS for anyone to use; these data may be used for studying climate change, for example, and its impacts on the Earth and for those living on the planet.

These new stations extend the network of standardised ICOS measurements to the Spanish mainland, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean Sea, all zones of strategic importance which increase the geographic scope of the network.

“We are delighted to welcome Spain to ICOS. With more stations in the network, ICOS data will now cover areas stretching from the Canary Islands to Scandinavia, and even to Svalbard to the north. This will allow us to observe how carbon emissions move with the winds, and how carbon sinks are distributed on land and in the oceans. Based on our high quality data, scientists can better inform societies of the effects of climate change”, claimed Dr. Werner Kutsch, Director-General of ICOS.

A station on a shipping line

As from 1 January 2021, the Spanish ICOS consortium will be trained by the State Meteorological Agency (Spanish acronym: AEMET), attached to the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spanish acronym: ULPGC), at one station. The ULPGC station is in fact a merchant vessel with measuring equipment on-board. The ship travels back and forth between the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Barcelona in the Mediterranean, collecting water samples en route.

“The active participation of the Regional Government of the Canary Islands and Fundación Loro Parque guarantees ULPGC’s contribution to keeping the oceanic stations operational with the aim of actively communicating scientifically-based information which is relevant for climate action and decision-making in the Canary Island Region within Europe”, claimed Dr. Melchor, from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Izaña atmospheric observatory is also in the Canary Islands, run by AEMET, which provides important background information on carbon dioxide and methane concentrations in the sub-tropical atmosphere, as well as greenhouse gasses.

“The ICOS programme at the Izaña station is being developed in parallel and independently from the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which began in 1984. The station also interconnects with all other global greenhouse gas observation systems, using both terrestrial techniques and remote sensing. This provides added value as a permanent point of comparison in all the networks”, said Dr. Emilio Cuevas, Spanish ICOS coordinator from AEMET.

Cooperation from seven Spanish institutions

Over the next few years, five more institutes will join the Spanish ICOS consortium; the Institute of Science and Environmental Technology of the University of Barcelona (Spanish acronym: ICTA-UAB, the Oceanographic Platform of the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean Centre for Environmental Studies and the National Institute for Aerospace Technology. These partners will play a leading role in climate modelling and research and in the regional measuring of greenhouse gasses in Spain.

The General Assembly of ICOS approved Spain’s request to join at its meeting on 17 November 2020. Following the effective incorporation of Spain in ICOS, which will take place on 1 January 2021, the research infrastructure of ICOS will have 13 Member States and close to 150 measuring stations managed by more than 80 associated universities and institutes throughout Europe.

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