Izaña Observatory celebrates 100 years

Izaña Observatory celebrates 100 years

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Published

8 April 2016

The Izaña Atmospheric Observatory, located on Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, is marking 100 years of continuous operations on 8 April. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas and WMO President David Grimes are there to join in the celebrations.

Uninterrupted long-term datasets of weather and climate observations are vital to our scientific understanding of climate variability and change. To promote awareness of the importance of digitizing and sustaining these datasets, the World Meteorological Organization is inviting governments to nominate candidates for recognition as WMO Centennial Observing Stations.

The Spanish State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) provides strong support to the WMO initiative and has nominated Izaña Observatory and other stations for recognition as Centennial Stations during the initiative’s test phase.

Izaña started making meteorological measurements on 1 January 1916. Its records include temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and speed, pressure, rainfall, cloud classification/amount, sea cloud, visibility range, present weather and sunshine-duration observations.

“Understanding atmospheric dynamics is essential to life on Earth.  It is through the vision of nations such as Spain in establishing the Izaña observatory that we have improved our knowledge of changes in this thin envelope of air that surrounds our planet,” said Mr Grimes. “Programmes here allow us to monitor long range transport of air pollutants as we sample the ebb and flow of atmospheric circulation between the Atlantic Ocean, Africa and Europe.”

The Izaña Atmospheric Observatory is a major contributor to the Global Atmosphere Watch Programme which was set up in 1989. It monitors concentrations of carbon dioxide, which increased from an annual average of 346.0 parts per million in 1985 to 398.6 ppm in 2014.

“The long-term monitoring by these stations enables us to understand how concentrations of greenhouse gases are evolving,” said Mr Taalas. “This confirms that we have entered a true climate crisis that will continue for many decades.”

Stations like Izaña will form the backbone of WMO’s planned Integrated Greenhouse Gas Information System, which will combine observations, modelling and analyses for determining trends and distributions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Thanks to this system it will be possible to understand how effective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be. It will be a fundamental tool for the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Mr Taalas.

WMO Centennial Observing Stations

Meteorological stations have been recording weather observations for over a century, until recently with pen and paper. Today, supercomputers and sophisticated models and satellites are important tools for climate scientists. But long-term, continuous observations from thermometers, rain gauges and other instruments remain essential, including for confirming model results. Without them, we could not be certain that the Earth has warmed by one degree Centigrade over the past century.

Unfortunately, many of these invaluable historical records are at risk because some measuring sites have already fallen victim to budget cuts. Others have been discontinued or moved to a different location, making long-term comparisons difficult.  When a long-term record is terminated, scientists lose an irreplaceable piece of the climate puzzle.

To promote the rescue and continuation of these records, governments are nominating Centennial Observation Stations for formal recognition by WMO. Many Centennial Observation Stations are also of outstanding historical and cultural interest, recalling previous eras and the birth of modern meteorology. Taken together as a network, Centennial Observation Stations are uniquely able to tell the story of recent climatic history.

All of Izaña’s historic observational data since 1916 have already been digitized and stored in AEMET’s National Climatological Databank. Digitization of the remaining historic data from 1909 to 1916 and publications is underway and will be completed by the end of 2017. All of the original observer logbooks since 1909 have been classified and stored safely at the Observatory.

In addition to its potential to become a Centennial Observing Station, Izaña Observatory is a Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) station and is part of the most important international atmospheric research networks.

For more information about the WMO Centennial Observing Stations project, please contact wcdmp@wmo.int.

More information on the Izaña Atmospheric Observatory is here

WMO SG statement

AEMet Press release in Spanish

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