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Air Canada to collect climate and air quality data over the North Atlantic

Air Canada has newly-installed a scientific instrument for air quality and climate monitoring on their Airbus A330 aircraft, with support from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

The compact probe device, permanently fitted to the aircraft near the flight deck, will provide key data for the In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System programme, known as IAGOS for short. 

The Air Canada Airbus A330 is set to provide observation data from the North Atlantic and Arctic region. On routine flights between Canada and Europe, the aircraft will measure a range of parameters including: ozone, water vapour, greenhouse gases, reactive gases, aerosols, and clouds – during take-off, cruising, and landing. 

The IAGOS programme combines the expertise of scientific institutions, including the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, with the infrastructure of civil aviation in order to provide essential data on climate change and air quality at a global scale. 

Commercial aircraft provide an ideal platform for climate and air quality observations, as they can efficiently collect samples at high altitudes where making measurements is otherwise challenging.

The National Centre for Atmospheric Science supported specialist instrumentation onboard the commercial aircraft, drawing on expertise from our Atmospheric Measurement and Observation Facility and our partners at the University of Manchester. 

After each flight, the measurement data is automatically transmitted to the central database of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique research centre in France. In addition to IAGOS, the data collected by Air Canada will help inform the Government of Canada’s department of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“After a few days in operation, the Air Canada aircraft has already detected exceptional levels of carbon monoxide over eastern Canada emanating from the intense wildfires in Alberta. Scientists will use these data to understand the impact of events like this on the atmosphere, on air quality and ultimately on climate” says Dr Hannah Clark, IAGOS Executive Secretary.

IAGOS is working with airlines worldwide – last year airliner Lufthansa equipped a third aircraft with these sensors – and this will allow for the validation of global climate models and provide near real-time data in an open-source manner to researchers around the world. The research findings are freely accessible and currently used by around 300 global organisations.