Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Demonstration Network Of ground-based Remote Sensing Observations in support of the GMES Atmospheric Service

Final Report Summary - NORS (Demonstration Network Of ground-based Remote Sensing Observations in support of the GMES Atmospheric Service)

Executive Summary:
The project has succeeded in achieving all its objectives, as demonstrated by the final results:
- A Rapid Data Delivery System that is fully operational for the NORS stations and target products, and that is also adopted by other existing and new NDACC stations and for more target products (e.g. H2O and FTIR NO2). This system enhances the visibility and the use of the ground-based remote sensing data (NDACC) in general. It can be considered an important progress in the ground-based remote sensing community. We also see that some teams submit the data at a faster pace (daily, weekly, ..) than the monthly pace: we can expect that more NDACC partners will shorten the delay of data submission in the near future.
- Optimized GEOMS HDF templates for the submission of the NORS/NDACC data. One advantage of the standardisation of the format is that erroneous data submission is easily detected. This serves the homogeneity and better usability of the NDACC database.
- Improved maturity and quality assurance of the NORS target MAXDOAS products at the NORS stations, and integration of these products in the NDACC database and the Rapid Data Delivery System. This is the case today, e.g. for the MAXDOAS aerosol data at Xianghe.
- Significant progress in cloud detection and classification, and distinction from aerosol, in MAXDOAS data.
- Better characterisation of the information content and uncertainties of the NORS target products – including user documentation. This will be very valuable for all uses of NORS-type data: modelling, satellite validation, process and trend studies. These documents have been published on the NDACC database and on the NORS Validation Server.
- Better understanding and documentation of the differences between products from different remote-sensing techniques for the same geophysical parameter. In particular, for HCHO and NO2 from FTIR and UV-Vis spectrometry, and for CO from mid- and near-infrared Fourier-transform spectrometry.
- A compilation of evaluations of satellite data used in the MACC-II assimilation analyses, versus NORS products. This will help understanding the quality of the MACC-II products.
- Homogeneous and harmonised re-analysed time series of NORS products since 2003, compliant with the progress made in the project as to the data products. These time series support the quality assessment of the reanalysis in MACC.
- Tropospheric column data at demonstration sites, derived from the integration of surface in-situ data with representativeness information and model profiles. The methodology to derive these data is also a result of this project. Integrated in-situ profiles (and intermediate results) are available for FTIR CO, O3 and CH4 data at Jungfraujoch and Izaña and for MAXDOAS lower tropospheric columns of NO2 at Jungfraujoch, from .
- Integrated ozone profiles and tropo- and stratospheric column data at NORS sites. The methodology and S/W to derive these datais also a result of this project and is available.
- A Web-based server for the validation of the target MACC (CAMS) products, that is fully operational and that has already been extended to additional target products (like H2O and FTIR NO2) and several more NDACC sites.
- The demonstration of quality assessment of the MACC-II products, including the reanalysis, using ground-based remote sensing data. The use of the NORS/NDACC data in the MACC reports for the validation of the NRT global atmospheric composition service is increasing with every issue of the report. In the latest report of September 2014, 5 chapters use NORS/NDACC data from several instruments for the validation of the MACC-III products for CO, formaldehyde, ozone, NO2 and aerosol.
- A spin-off of the NORS project is that the comparison algorithms and the interface developed for the NORS Validation Server will be largely re-usable for validation purposes of atmospheric composition satellite data. This means that an Atmospheric Satellite Validation Server can easily be ‘derived’ from the NORS Validation Server, with a minimal effort. This should also be very beneficial for supporting the Copernicus Sentinel missions. ESA has shown interest in re-using the NORS experience for this purpose.
- The atmospheric communities (ground-based, satellite and model communities) are much better aware of NDACC, and of its value.
- Additional NDACC stations in other continents are under development; they adopt from the start the expertise gained in NORS. Some are already submitting data, even in Rapid Delivery mode, to the NDACC database. Several operartional NDACC stations have joined the rapid delivery to the database .

Information about NORS and results are published on the NORS Webpages:

Project Context and Objectives:
The NORS project is a research and development project, for improving and supporting the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), called GMES Atmospheric Service (GAS) at the time of project start. At that time, CAMS (GAS) did use almost no ground-based remote-sensing data for the validation of its model outputs, but merely sonde data and in-situ surface data.
So NORS would fill this gap. The ultimate goal of NORS was therefore to demonstrate the suitability of data from ground-based remote sensing networks for the quality assessment of the CAMS products.
As such, in first instance, the project focused on a selection of data from the Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC), the so-called target data. NORS has improved the availability and timeliness of the target data, their characterisation and usability, and their integration with in-situ and other data sources. It has also delivered integrated ozone data products. The quality assessment of the CAMS products is being performed on a daily automatic basis by the so-called NORS Validation Server that is fully operational since end of 2013, i.e. well before the end of the NORS project. Customer-driven validation processes are also possible via this Server, for the so-called VIP users.

A lot of effort has been made to reach the ultimate aim of NORS which was to (1) involve the larger NDACC community and new observatories outside Western-Europe in the effort, for enabling validation of the CAMS products on the global scale, and (2) to guarantee long-term data availability and sustainability of the NORS Validation Server.
As to (1), NORS has been very successful: many more NDACC (or candidate NDACC) stations than the initial four are providing data that are compliant with the requirements of the NORS data and Validation Server and several more are contributing data on a rapid delivery basis to the Server.
Regarding (2): we have succeeded in embedding the NORS Validation Server and validation reports in the MACC-III project and there is good hope that NORS-like activities will be sustained in CAMS. A sustained support for the ground-based remote-sensing data acquisition and analysis is not guaranteed yet.

Project Results:
The Project Final Report Pdf document contains the main S & T results/foregrounds.

Potential Impact:
The NORS project has several societal implications: (i) direct socio-economic impact, (ii) indirect socio-economic impact, and (iii) societal implications for the future.

Direct socio-economic impact
The effective project duration has been 37 months (33 months planned initially plus a project extension of 4 months). During these 37 months, several partners involved in NORS could hire new researchers to work on the project or could extend the work contracts of one of their researchers. In other words, the project created jobs for researchers. Also the SME involved in the project benefitted from the project for job preservation.

Indirect socio-economic impact
Especially at the S&T offices and at the coordinator’s location, IT support had to be reinforced (allocation of storage space, implementation of new S/W, …) thereby ‘feeding’ the IT business.

Societal implications for the future
The project NORS has led to a follow-up in the MACC-III project. As such, (1) at least one job has been preserved, for the person operating the NORS Validation Server in MACC-III, and (2) the MACC-III products that are provided as a service to society (scientists, policy makers, public at large) will benefit from the quality assessment that is provided via the NORS expertise.
It is also planned that the expertise and tools developed in NORS will be further enhanced and improved in the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS), thereby providing information about the quality of the CAMS products, for the benefit of society, and providing job(s) for researchers.
Another implication of NORS is that many partners in the Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change have achieved a system to provide Rapid Delivery of their data: this experience will make them more ‘competitive’ in the acquisition of future projects, and enables them to create job perspectives for their collaborators.
The Rapid Delivery of data will make the NDACC data more accessible and usable for Earth Observation applications, potentially for the benefit of society.
The new data products that have been developed in the NORS project, e.g. aerosol extinction profiles in the lowermost troposphere, are also attractive for future applications.

Main dissemination activities
Dissemination activities have been manifold:
- Publications in scientific journals, mostly peer-reviewed journals
- Presentations, oral and poster, at scientific meetings, international symposia and workshops; in particular at NDACC Steering Committee and Working Groups meetings, and at MACC meetings.
- A brochure for the wider public
- A dedicated public web site
- Information about the NORS project in UK stakeholder-oriented journals (The Parliament Magazine 17 December 2012, Adjacent Government Company (
- Link on MACC-II/-IIII website
- Information and links on NDACC Website and in NDACC Hot News and Newsletter
- The successful organisation of a dedicated NORS/NDACC/GAW Workshop in Brussels (Nov. 5-7, 2014), following the NDACC Steering Committee meeting at the same location (Brussels, Nov. 3-5, 2014)
- Participation to MACC monthly teleconferences, to report occasionally about NORS

Exploitation of results of the NORS project
The results of the NORS project will be exploited in MACC-III and the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service, thereby achieving a major goal of the project.
The NORS Validation Server provides building blocks for other validation activities, e.g. of satellite data.
The data formatting efforts in NORS and the use of the NDACC data files in an automated way in the NORS Validation Server has already resulted in an improved consistency of the NDACC database. This effort will be continued.
The new data products (e.g. aerosol extinction profiles) and methodologies (e.g. cloud filtering, integration of ozone data) that were developed in NORS can be further exploited for more advanced scientific research purposes.
NORS has also improved the characterization of the data: this will be beneficial for future exploitation of the NDACC (and NORS-type) data, e.g. the horizontal extent of the information content will be used to better support satellite and model validation, e.g. for the Sentinel (precursor) missions.
This characterisation has also helped identifying pollution patterns around cities like Athens.
A side-effect of NORS is a more advanced automation of data acquisition, analysis and archiving: this increases the cost-efficiency of the generation of this kind of data, which is a major advantage for enhancing the exploitation of the data. It will be exploited in the in-situ component of the Copernicus Services.

List of Websites: