There are a number of questions about ATTO and our research there, that we hear all the time. So we answered them for you here:
ATTO is an active research observatory and access to the site and the tower is limited to scientists and technicians involved in the project. We can occasionally make exceptions for journalists and film crews (see Press), but unfortunately cannot make them for tourists or other casually interested parties.
A tall tower enables us to measure regional signals that reflect forest-atmosphere interactions over a large area. At the top of the tall tower, we are far above the canopy. Therefore, we can measure signals that are not influenced just by what is going on in the forest immediately below us. It enables us to integrate interactions between the mostly pristine forest and atmosphere over hundreds of square kilometers upwind. The signal we measure include greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. In addition, we also measure other gases such as volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, ozone or carbonyl sulfide, and aerosols (fine particles like dust) that tell of large-scale atmospheric mixing, upwind fires and smoke, or general vegetation status. The tower’s height also allows us to monitor things happening above the canopy that are difficult to see from the ground. An example of that is how clouds and fog develop over the course of the day.
It is also possible to study these larger-scale signals from airplanes. But the tower allows us to measure continuously, while research airplanes can only capture moments in time. And we can see how things change the higher up we go by measuring at different heights of the tower at the same time.
Towers are often used in atmospheric science and there is a global network of tall towers similar to ATTO. However, most are located in temperate regions. In addition, most sampling stations integrating large air sheds are located near the coast or on mountain tops, but very few are located in the center of continents. ATTO is the first to study tropical forest, and only one of few to sample such a large important forest biomes as the Amazon.
One comparable tower is called ZOTTO and is located in the Siberian Tundra. ZOTTO is 310 meter high and fulfills a similar purpose to ATTO, but it focuses on boreal forests.
Under our data policy, all ATTO data will be Open Access and thus available for you to use for your research. Please visit the data portal and register as an external user. By doing so, you have to read and agree to our data policy. Among other things, the data policy states that you have to cite the data owner if you are using their data in your work. Once you are registered, you can see the meta data of all publicly available data sets and decide what you need. Then request access to those data via the data portal with a brief explanation of how you want to integrate them into your work.
Some data being collected will not be immediately available as they need to be processed. If you see meta data but not the data you need, you can contact the investigator.
Only members of the ATTO consortium can use the observatory. Scientists who are interested in adding new observation capabilities to the study should contact the coordinators. They will ask them to prepare a description of the scientific goals and requirements. This should include what instruments you want to use, what kinds of logistical, sampling or ancillary data support you envision, and especially for instrumentation, where it would be installed.
Collaborators in ATTO are expected to provide funding not just for their own research but to help pay for ATTO infrastructure costs that they use. We also strongly encourage collaboration with ongoing ATTO research and, for researchers from countries outside Brazil, that they demonstrate local collaborations and be responsible for their own import/export and visa requirements.
Proposals are reviewed and must be approved by the ATTO Scientific Steering Committee, which also consults with the ATTO management committee about logistical feasibility.
Most of the Amazon fires occur in what is called the “arc of deforestation” on the western and southern edges of the rainforest. Other areas of high deforestation rates are near roads and urban areas. Although there are fires mostly near Manaus, ATTO is meant to study pristine forests and therefore was located remotely deep in the central Amazon specifically to be as far away as feasible from those areas. Therefore we don’t usually see big fires or smoke with the naked eye, although we might be able to spot a small fire on occasion.
However, our instruments do pick up signals from smoke and fires that are far away, if the wind blows in the right direction to carries them to our site. When trying to detect fires and smoke, we look for soot, ash, carbon monoxide and ozone, among other things. We can even detect bush fires and volcanic eruptions as far away as central Africa.
If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact our outreach office Iris Möbius at iris.moebius(at)bgc-jena.mpg.de. She will either answer you herself or connect you with one of our scientists.