ICOS ready to develop into a full-service provider of in situ greenhouse gas data, in line with the EU’s “Green Report”

15 October 2019


Europe needs a more comprehensive ground-based monitoring of greenhouse gases, states the European Commission in its recently published “Green Report”. ICOS, the Integrated Carbon Observation System provides a major part of these required measurements already, and is fully prepared to develop into a full-service provider of in situ greenhouse gas data. 

Measuring greenhouse gases accurately is crucial to evaluate how successful the actions taken to mitigate and adapt to climate change have been, and to change course if needed. The European countries have established mechanisms and structures to do so, and ICOS, Integrated Carbon Observation System being one of them. However, the ground-based, so called in situ measurement capabilities should be significantly improved, especially in terms of observing human-induced emissions in densely populated areas. This is required to fulfil the needs set by the Paris Agreement.

This is stated in a recent CO2 Green report 2019, published by the European Commission as third volume of a series of reports. It reflects the work of the European Commission to set up an Operational Anthropogenic CO Emissions Monitoring & Verification Support (MVS) Capacity. The report describes the needs and high-level requirements of in situ measurements in order to establish the Monitoring and Verification Support. CO2 is carbon dioxide.

Scientific excellence, solid governance and operations make ICOS a good platform for future developments

Dr Werner Kutsch, Director General of ICOS, welcomes the message in the Green Report: “We fully share the vision of a comprehensive system as outlined in the report. Indeed, our strategy is fully aligned with it: the ICOS research infrastructure is ready to function as a platform to carry these highly necessary in situ components. Moreover, we have excellent scientists both in the ICOS community and in our networks, and they are capable to design it.”  

The operational nature of ICOS research infrastructure, together with its well-established governance, makes ICOS a solid partner to coordinate the inclusion of additional in situ components with respect to the requirements of the MVS capacity.

“The scientific community in and around ICOS has already started discussions on how to best combine the various existing and new measurement technologies in order to develop a concept to reliably measure the atmospheric imprint of fossil fuel emissions,” says Dr Samuel Hammer, the Director of the ICOS Radiocarbon Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

“We are continuously expanding our toolbox of methods, e.g. on how to separate CO2 contributions from fossil fuel or biogenic emissions using atmospheric 14CO2 and other process-related surrogate tracers. We have started to analyse the needs for developing the necessary capability, in line with the conclusions expressed in the Green Report. “

The connection to satellite observations is another important part of the toolbox. “Combining CO2 observations from space with our in situ measurements on the ground opens the door for a really comprehensive system as outlined in the earlier blue and red CO2 reports”, says Dr Leonard Rivier, the Director of the ICOS Atmospheric Thematic Centre at LSCE in Paris, France. “For example, we are working together with TCCON on how to integrate its European ground-based remote sensing measurements into ICOS.” The Total Carbon Column Observing Network, TCCON, uses ground-based, near-infrared technology to measure column-averaged amounts of carbon in the atmosphere.

ICOS also shares the report’s view on the need of sufficient long-term funding. While the current operations of ICOS are in principle funded in a sustainable way, developing a new capability at a large scale will require additional funding, as stated in the Green Report.

Green Report: Pinty B., P. Ciais, D. Dee, H. Dolman, M. Dowell, R. Engelen, K. Holmlund, G. Janssens-Maenhout, Y. Meijer, P. Palmer, M. Scholze, H. Denier van der Gon, M. Heimann, O. Juvyns, A. Kentarchos and H. Zunker (2019) An Operational Anthropogenic CO Emissions Monitoring & Verification Support Capacity – Needs and high level requirements for in situ measurements, doi: 10.2760/182790, European Commission Joint Research Centre, EUR 29817 EN.