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GEMS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 516099
Funded under: FP6-AEROSPACE

Early atmospheric warning systems

The thousands of deaths caused by the 2003 heat wave demonstrated that Europe lacks the ability to make adequate medium- and short-range forecasts regarding atmospheric dangers. Integrating global satellite technology and implementing it at the local level, however, could provide the answer.
Early atmospheric warning systems
An EU-funded initiative set out to better exploit satellite data in order to improve air-chemistry forecast capabilities. The focus of the project 'Global and regional Earth-system monitoring using satellite and in-situ data' (GEMS) was to demonstrate how a comprehensive and integrated atmospheric monitoring system for Europe could operate.

In order to achieve this, the GEMS project pulled together a consortium that involved centres with operational responsibilities for regional air-quality forecasting, along with leading European laboratories including the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which has global operational weather capabilities, and the EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC), which has global diagnostic capabilities.

The global weather forecasting system operated by the ECMWF was used as a basis. From this, the consortium developed a global analysis and forecasting system for greenhouse gases, reactive gases and aerosols, based on assimilating data on atmospheric composition and weather. Global forecasts on the long-range transport of air pollutants were fed into regional forecast models, providing improved regional forecasts at the city level across Europe.

Ground-, aircraft- and balloon-based constituent measurements were used for validation. The system was run to reconstruct global conditions day-by-day over the past five years. Routine daily operations provided real-time monitoring and forecasts of conditions for several days ahead.

In addition, the GEMS project developed a means of retrospectively analysing atmospheric dynamics and composition of the troposphere and stratosphere, helping scientists to gauge the impact of atmospheric changes both on a global and regional scale. Other studies within GEMS used the global analyses to refine estimates of the surface sources (and sinks) of greenhouse gases, and assessment of the value of derived products related to human health. Such integrated analyses and forecasts have the potential to significantly improve the monitoring of possible atmospheric threats.

The success of the project represents a major step towards the establishment of a fully operational 'Global monitoring for environment and security' (GMES) atmosphere service. The project demonstrated that an integrated global and regional GEMS analysis was sufficiently robust and of sufficient quality to justify further research. The project also uncovered scope for improvement, including full incorporation of stratospheric aerosol and more complete interaction between the thematic elements. These were two areas where progress in GEMS was slower than anticipated when the original work plan for the project was drawn up.

Much of the ground-breaking work carried out at GEMS has now been taken up through a new EU-funded project 'Monitoring atmospheric composition and climate'(MACC), which aims to be fully operational from late 2011.

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