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Attached to the regularly scheduled passenger trains traveling across Siberia from Moscow to Khabarovsk and back this month will be a specially designed observatory car to help NOAA scientists and their colleagues study trace gas emissions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“The new carriage has the latest in instrumentation, satellite Internet and phone technology,“ said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “It is one of the many examples of the technology NOAA uses as it takes the pulse of the Earth.”
The carriage is powered by generators attached to its wheels with on-board battery storage or directly by the locomotive's electrical power. A special observer's viewing port is on top of the carriage. The observer can record events along the Trans-Siberian railway (passing trains, factories, etc.) both digitally and by sight. The new $2 million Russian carriage was displayed at the World Climate Change Conference in Moscow in Fall, 2003.
The carriage is a key part of the TRans-siberian Observations Into the Chemistry of the Atmosphere (TROICA) expedition. Four scientists representing NOAA’s Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory (CMDL) in Boulder, Colo., and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES) at University of Colorado will participate in the international study. They will collect atmospheric composition measurements during a round-trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway, a thirteen-day journey beginning March 17 covering about 17,000 kilometers (about 10,600 miles).
“There will have been eight expeditions of TROICA so far, but this is first to measure trace gases, aerosols, and meteorological parameters during the cold Siberian winter,” said James Elkins, supervisory physicist, at CMDL.
The TROICA expeditions started in 1995 by Paul Crutzen, co- recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, of the German Max Planck Institute and Nikolai Elansky of the Russian Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics.
“This is a wonderful collaboration with scientists from Austria, Germany, Russia, and the United States to determine the effect of global pollution over the Arctic,” said Elkins. “The scientists will cross seven different time zones in six days on their journey from Moscow to Khabarovsk. We will compare our results to trace gas emissions estimated in Europe, the United States, and previous TROICA expeditions.”
The railway platform is ideal for atmospheric measurements because the railway is electrified between Moscow and Khabarovsk, minimizing the potential contamination of measurements by the train itself. This will be the second time that CMDL scientists have participated in the TROICA expeditions. During the first expedition (TROICA-7) in summer 2001, emissions of six man-made, ozone-depleting substances were measured for the first time ever in Siberia.
TROICA-8 will occur in the wintertime when the emissions of biologically produced gases (e.g. carbon dioxide) and biomass burning gases (e.g. carbon monoxide from forest fires) are at a minimum. Russia stooped producing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, used as refrigerants) and halons (used as fire extinguishing agents) at the end of 2000 as a result of the Montreal Protocol, but emissions persist from banks of these chemicals in existing refrigerators, air-conditioners, fire extinguishers, and other items.
One goal is to monitor the expected reduction of the ozone depleting substances between 2001 and 2004 and compare those data with similar data from Europe and North America. This collaboration is scientifically unique because very little is known about Siberian emissions of greenhouse and ozone depleting gases in the wintertime. Russian emissions of these important atmospheric trace gases will be compared to those measured in the United States and Europe. TROICA-8 results also will be compared to halocarbon emissions measured during the first joint American-German-Russia expedition (TROICA-7). This information is also key to ensuring that international agreements to phase out production of ozone-depleting substances are having the expected outcome (recovery of the protective ozone layer).
TROICA-8 is partially supported by NOAA (Arctic Research, CMDL, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research) programs, NASA (Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling and Analysis, ACMAP; Radiation Sciences; and Upper Atmospheric Research, UARP) programs, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPI) in Mainz, Germany and the Russian Railway Institute.
The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.
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