18 million euro from NWO for the Ruisdael Observatory

Since the industrial revolution the composition and structure atmosphere and our climate have changed due to emissions of greenhouse gases, air pollution and fine particulate matter (aerosol). The Ruisdael Observatory, a consortium of five Dutch universities, including the VU, and four research institutes, aims to thoroughly measure and model the changes in the atmosphere above the Dutch territory. In this way the Ruisdael Observatory will create an accurate picture of the changes of local weather, climate and air quality.

04/17/2018 | 2:36 PM

Ruisdael recently received 18 million euro from NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, to further develop the current network of measuring stations. This network consists of both fixed stations in the Netherlands as well as mobile sensors that provide data on the physical and chemical properties of the atmosphere and the interaction with the surface of the earth.

Professor in Ecohydrology at the VU, Han Dolman, and professor in Greenhouse Gases Sander Houweling will investigate how satellite data can complement current measurements in regions where few data have been gathered. A new modeling facility will process the observed data real-time in atmospheric models. “The scale at which this will be happening is very small,” Dolman says. “With this new investment we can model atmospheric conditions with an accuracy of less than 1 kilometer for all over the Netherlands.”

Nationwide dense network of measuring points
The Ruisdael Observatory is a partnership made up of a wide range of parties, which enables it to combine all of these individual specialisations. The consortium comprises researchers from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Utrecht University, the University of Groningen, VU Amsterdam, Wageningen University & Research, RIVM, TNO, ECN and TU Delft (coordinating university).

Accurate models and computing power
The modelling aspect encounters the same problems as the measuring side of things. Although the models are achieving increasingly higher resolution, these are not yet detailed enough. A new computing facility is needed to process the observed data real-time into atmospheric models. The Ruisdael Observatory aims at producing a simulation of the entire atmosphere of the Netherlands at a resolution of 100x100 meters.

A major advantage of such a national map of the ‘Dutch skies’ is that the Netherlands has a huge variety of different sorts of landscape, building, vegetation and weather conditions packed into a relatively small surface area. This means we can learn a wide range of local lessons about weather and climate, lessons which can also be applied internationally.

National Roadmap
De research funding is provided by the National Roadmap for Large-scale Research Facilities. The project contributes to two European large scale infrastructure projects: one focusing of greenhouse gases (ICOS) and the other one focusing on aerosols (particulate matter, ACTRIS). ICOS and ACTRIS are part of the so-called ESFRI programme.