Antarctica – as exposed to global pollution and climate change as the Arctic?

NILU, The Norwegian Institute for Air Research is about to complete the first annual cycle of pollution measurements at Troll Station in Antarctica. It is well known that pollution from all over the Northern hemisphere accumulates in the Arctic, causing severe problems in the Arctic food chain and reinforcing climate change in the region. NILU is now investigating to what degree transport mechanisms to and the pollution levels in Antarctica are comparable.


The Arctic is confirmed to be a major sink area of long-range transported pollution from the whole Northern hemisphere. This has severe consequences for the marine food chain. Aerosols, which are part of the pollution problem, have, in addition, turned out to be a potentially important parameter for Arctic climate change, in particular melting of ice in the Arctic.

Antarctica – as exposed to global pollution and climate change as the Arctic?

Research activity in both polar regions

NILU has performed extensive measurements at our observatory on Zeppelin Mountain, Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard for more than 20 years. With the start of measurements at Troll Station NILU is now one of few institutions with activities at both poles. The measurements on Svalbard have resulted in continuous long-term data series providing important knowledge on pollution and climate. By comparing data from the two observatories, we hope to achieve important new knowledge on transport and effect mechanisms related to pollution on a global scale and thus contribute to ongoing international research in this field.

The Troll Station is of particular interest because of its location on the slope between the Antarctic inland ice plateau and the coast, where marine and continental air masses meet and mix. Thus, studies at such a site may help to better interpret trace gas measurements from ice cores, which play a central role in climate research.

NILU’s monitoring programme at Troll Station comprises the following components: mercury, surface ozone, aerosols (chemical, physical, optical properties), UV radiation and total ozone, organic pollutants (POPs), hydrocarbons, and CO. Moreover, an air archive with bi-annual probing will be built up for future new analyses. With this set of measurements we intend to complement ongoing measurements at other stations in this part of Antarctica, e.g., the German Neumayer Station and the British station at Halley Bay.

The all-year monitoring programme was started in February 2007. Data of high quality have been collected continuously under the harsh conditions of Antarctic winter, with very few instrument failures occurring. NILU has to a large degree collected and handled the data from NILU in Norway, while the station staff from the Norwegian Polar Institute has provided an excellent daily surveillance of the instrumentation.

Antarctica – as exposed to global pollution and climate change as the Arctic?

Investments and funding

NILU has succeeded in establishing an autonomous monitoring station at Troll with comprehensive advanced instrumentation, based on a moderate investment of 4.7 mill. NOK (600,000 Euro). The annual budget is 3 mill NOK, a support from the Norwegian Antarctic Research Expeditions (NARE) programme managed by the Norwegian Polar Institute. However, to fully exploit the new monitoring programme, more funding is needed over time.

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