Australia’s Fairfax Media is reporting that US space agency NASA has appealed to Australia not to close down an atmospheric aerosol monitoring network as part of plans to shed jobs.
NASA has urged Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) not to close down its AeroSpan programme for monitoring aerosols in the atmosphere, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The paper says it has obtained a letter from NASA’s Brent Holben, project head of the agency’s Aerosol Robotic Network, to CSIRO executive director Alex Wonhas expressing “dismay” at plans to close down the programme which includes eight automated monitoring stations across Australia.
CSIRO announced plans in February to shed jobs as part of a plan to increase collaboration with industry and boost commercialisation. Many of the job losses are in the climate research division – and AeroSpan is reportedly slated for closure.
Aerosols are believed to affect the climate and the Australian monitoring stations are part of a global monitoring network providing data used by the NASA team and other climate scientists around the world. Aerosols are considered a significant unknown in climate research that need to be better understood to help improve the performance of climate models.
Aerosols moderate climate change through the scattering and absorption of incoming solar radiation (the so-called direct effect) and via the modification of cloud droplet size and cloud lifetime (the indirect effect). Uncertainty as to the magnitude of these effects stems largely from the lack of data on the regional and seasonal characteristics of aerosol across the globe – which is why scientists believe a global monitoring network is important
CSIRO describes AeroSpan as a network of automated instruments located to characterise the primary sources of Australian continental aerosol (dust and smoke). In 1997, the first AeroSpan station was installed in the remote Strzelecki desert of South Australia. Further stations were established over subsequent years at targeted locations. For many stations, the data record now exceeds 10 years, allowing generation of aerosol climatologies for both the tropical north and the arid zone.
NASA describes the Aeronet collaboration as providing a long-term, continuous and readily accessible public domain database of aerosol optical, microphysical and radiative properties for aerosol research and characterization.
Since initial publication, Huw Morgan, CSIRO media liaison manager, contacted us through the comment function to say: “No. NASA did none of the above. Fairfax was wrong and NASA will verify if you ask”. See Comments below.