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Canada moves to allay ozone monitoring fears

Instruments measuring ozone in Antarctica and elsewhere are calibrated against a Canadian curated reference.

Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, Argentina

Posted on behalf of Hannah Hoag.

Atmospheric scientists can breathe a bit easier. The World Meteorological Organization’s ozone group is optimistic that it will work out a deal with Environment Canada over the handling of a global data repository on ozone and ultraviolet radiation.

At the Quadrennial Ozone Symposium in Toronto, Ontario,  in late August, scientists from around the world raised concerns over staffing changes at the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Data Centre (run by Environment Canada) that replaced a scientist with a data manager. The memorandum of understanding, which has yet to be drafted, will correct that and see that the global network of instruments that measure ozone will continue to be maintained by a team that includes scientists, says Johannes Stähelin, an atmosphere researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and chair of WMO’s Science Advisory Group for Ozone.

In September, Environment Canada dissolved its ozone and radiation research group and reassigned the person in charge of the WOUDC. Environment minister Peter Kent has repeatedly told parliament that the ozone monitoring program would continue in a “scientifically acceptable” way and that the WOUDC would continue to deliver “world-class service.” Scientists disagreed. “I think we’re not meeting the role we signed up for,” says Tom Duck, an atmospheric researcher at Dalhousie University, in Canada.

There have been no issues with the data entered into the database yet, says Christo Zerefos, an atmospheric scientist at the Academy of Athens, in Greece, and president of the International Ozone Commission. “But that is why we are urging them to try to avoid that situation.”

“[Environment Canada] may have thought they were just running an FTP site, but now they understand,” says Stähelin. “The [person managing the] WOUDC needs to look at the data and give the stations providing the data feedback on whether the data quality is good or not. This is a requirement.”

Environment Canada also keeps the Brewer reference triad, a trio of ground-based spectrophotometers that measures atmospheric ozone and sulphur dioxide and the reference for a global network of Brewer spectrophotometers. Stähelin says he is encouraged that scientists, as opposed to technicians, will be the ones who ensure the trio remains calibrated. “You need to be sure that your calibration is stable with a shift of less then 1% in 10 years. If that’s not the case, you can’t look at your data,” he says.

Still some remain sceptical. “I don’t know how you do world-class work if the scientists who have been doing it have been assigned to other duties. They have to rebuild this expertise and that will take years,” says Mark Weber, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Bremen, in Germany, and a member of the WMO’s ozone group.



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