Motivation

Why do we need CARIBIC ?
Scientists have too little detailed systematic information about the composition of the atmosphere. The problem is that the atmosphere is very complex and very large. Millions tons of pollutants are injected into the atmosphere each year and have to be removed by chemical reactions. This pollution produced by us, but also by nature itself (plants !) has to be cleaned-up. The atmosphere has a healthy self-cleansing mechanism based on energy supplied by sunlight. From summer to winter, from the cold poles to the hot tropics, from the surface to great height, day and night, the composition of the atmosphere changes. Therefore many measurements are needed. It is often overlooked that hundreds of chemical reactions take place in the air around us.

The air around us looks just like air ! Yet, invisible to the eye, many chemical reactions take place. This is a natural process. For instance, ozone is produced. High up in the stratosphere ozone protects life on earth against harmful ultra violet radiation. But destruction of ozone also takes place (ozone hole).

When you let some natural gas (mainly methane gas) escape into the atmosphere, what does happen with the molecules from this gas? Nearly each methane molecule is oxidized in the atmosphere. But this takes time. A methane molecule survives for about 8 years. When you spill some petrol while filling up at the petrol station, also these bigger molecules have also to be removed. These are attacked faster, and may be destroyed up in a few days.

Is the earth's atmosphere now really sick?

A little bit, at least. The main problems as we see it now are:
1. The decrease in stratospheric ozone due to halocarbons (CFC's). This mechanism has been proven

2. The change in climate due to the increase in greenhouse gases is highly likely.
The earth surface seems to be warming, while there is very little change in solar radiation. At the same time we do know that greenhouse gases do have a warming effect, and we do know that greenhouse gases are increasing. Because of the extraordinary high importance of climate and climate change, global warming must be taken seriously and must be studied - CARIBIC does that.

What happens principally is that we have shifted natural equilibria in the atmosphere. For instance, because of all the polluting gases that we are releasing, the atmosphere cleans itself more slowly. Greenhouse gases like methane can built up. Yet, when we reduce emissions again, the atmosphere will most certainly recover itself! This is good news for the patient, and for us of course.
CARIBIC can help to supply information. For instance detailed measurements about methane are made.
Yet, some disturbances in the atmosphere will take a long time to heal. Furthermore, we can only hope that there is no irreparable damage to the complex system of the atmosphere, oceans, soils, global vegetation etc.