Newsletter #2

We just released the second ATTO newsletter. It features new team members, the big ATTO presence at the EGU 2019, infrastructure updates at the site and more.

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ATTO at EGU 2019

Word cloud from all abstracts accepted from EGU 2019 session „Intact Amazon forest - a natural laboratory of global significance“

EGU 2019 is shining a light on Amazon research. Jošt Lavrič, Beto Quesada, Alessandro Araújo and Matthias Sörgel are chairing a session titled „Intact Amazon forest – a natural laboratory of global significance“. We‘re excited that, in addition to many of our ATTO team members, scientists from a variety of other projects will participate in the session. It is going to be a very diverse and exciting, with lots of possibilities to share knowledge and extend our network. It will take place on Friday, 12 April.

Here is an overview of ATTO presentations in the EGU 2019 session on Amazon research (check the session program for all presentations):

Orals from 10:45 am to 12:30 pm in Room 2.31

Poster Session from 8:30 to 10:15am in Poster Hall A

ATTO presentations in other session

Visiting local schools to present ATTO

We want to share with you some news about an exciting project that developed over the last few weeks. Back in November, we had some very special visitors to our site. We had invited teachers from four near-by communities of indigenous people along the Uatumã River to ATTO. Representatives of the Secretary of Education of Presidente Figueiredo, the municipality to which these communities belong, joined them on this visit. This was a fantastic opportunity to get to know our neighbors in the forest better, to tell them about our research and show them the observatory. Afterwards, we discussed over lunch how we can best collaborate in the future.

One of the outcomes was to arrange for our team to engage the youth in those communities. So, over the last two weeks, some of our scientists visited these local schools and presented our research. Prior, most students and residents hadn’t known much about our work and were amazed by everything they saw and heard. Some teachers have already asked about the possibility of further developing this partnership. One such option is to create school projects with an environmental focus associated with our research at ATTO. Additionally, we had a visit from the coordinator of the Sustainable Development Reserve Uatumã. He was impressed with the project and would like to expand the interaction to the other schools in the reserve.

We are very excited about this development. And we hope these visits will not only serve as a way to inform the whole community about our work but also spark curiosity for science among the children.

Impressions from the visits

New Publication: rainforest VOC emissions change in El Nino years

OH reactivity (as a measure for VOCs) in the lower part of the graph indicated by the black (2012) and red (2015) lines show maxima at noon and around sunset, respectivelyScience is a lot like life: Things don’t always turn out the way you thought they would.

Recently, Eva Pfannerstill and her team wanted to find out how Amazonian plants react to ecological stresses, such as heat and drought. They wondered if they release more VOCs in such a situation. To do that, they compared data from November 2012 and 2015. 2012 was a pretty “normal” year without any significant temperature or precipitation anomaly. 2015, on the other hand, was influenced by a particularly strong El Nino. It brought extremely hot temperatures and severe drought to the region. However, the scientists were surprised to find that overall emissions were pretty much the same in the two years. But they did discover a different distribution over the day. In the El Nino year, the plants emitted most VOCs during the sunset hour. In the  “normal” year the peak was at noon. They attribute this unexpected discovery to more turbulent winds associated with the high temperatures. These transport the VOCs higher, above the forest canopy to the instrument.

The study was published in Frontiers in Forest and Global Change, Issue 18 under the title “Total OH Reactivity Changes Over the Amazon Rainforest During an El Niño Event” by Pfannerstill et al. and is available Open Access.

New Publication: Comparing air pollution in Manaus and at ATTO by identifying aerosols

You have probably heard a lot about air pollution recently, comparing air pollution in Manaus and in the Amazon rainforest by analyzing what aerosols are present. Edited after Wu et al. (2018)be it because of the massive wildfires in California, smog in India or the diesel emission scandal in Germany. So let’s look into air pollution in the Amazon. Most air pollutants are actually aerosols. Identifying these aerosols and their chemical composition can help us understand where they come from and to what extent certain regions are affected by air pollutions. That is exactly what Li Wu and co-authors did in their new study in the Amazon rainforest.

They collected and analyzed aerosols in two locations: the city of Manaus, a large urban area in Brazil, and the ATTO site in the heart of the forest. The samples were collected during the wet season when ATTO is mainly influenced by air masses from the Atlantic and is located upwind from Manaus. And indeed they found that at ATTO the aerosols are mostly of organic origin, emitted by the forest itself. Additionally, they could identify mineral dust and sea-salt particles. In contrast, they frequently found soot, fly ash and particles containing heavy metals in the samples in Manaus. These are most likely produced by human activities. The good news is that such anthropogenic particles are still largely absent from the atmosphere over the rainforest, showing us that pristine wilderness regions do still exist. That is, at least during the wet season when the winds blow in the “right” direction.

The scientists published the study in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP) and is available Open Access here.