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
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
Is the earth's atmosphere now really sick?
A little bit, at least. The main problems as we see it now
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
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.