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ICOS greenhouse gas measurement station © Andra

The ICOS carbon observation network is supplying high-precision data to serve research on climate change

With the certification of its first greenhouse gas measurement stations, ICOS, the Integrated Carbon Observation System, is now generating series of normalised data. These ICOS data are being used to better characterise and quantify carbon emissions and sinks at a European level, information that is essential if we are to predict and mitigate climate change. Under the supervision of the French Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the ICOS France consortium comprises ANDRA, CEA, CNRS, INRA and Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines; it is currently being coordinated by INRA.

Updated on 03/27/2018
Published on 12/11/2017

Measurements of greenhouse gas emissions are of critical importance to our understanding of the course of climate change and to predicting – and also mitigating – its consequences. This activity is becoming increasingly crucial because atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases are rising more rapidly than initially anticipated, as was recently announced by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

ICOS is a European research infrastructure dedicated to greenhouse gases which federates a large network of 140 measurement stations designed to generate scientific data for both the research community and decision-makers.  After more than five years focused on constructing the network and other preparatory work, the first seven stations now comply with the criteria for certification as an ICOS observatory. The other stations have also started this accreditation process, and the aim is that all stations will be certified between now and the end of 2019. The standards comply with or even exceed international requirements, such as those determined by the WMO and United Nations.

Data on greenhouse gases to drive efforts to mitigate climate change

“Thanks to the standardisation of our network of measurement stations, we are gaining a much more accurate understanding of carbon emissions and sinks in Europe: not only emissions produced by humans, but also natural flows of greenhouse gases”, explains Werner Kutsch, Director General of ICOS.

Natural carbon flows influence the amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as much as anthropogenic emissions, and may themselves be disturbed by climate change. In the longer term, it is therefore important to be able to distinguish between natural emissions originating from the biosphere and those arising from fossil fuels, so that efforts can be driven in the right direction.

“The data on greenhouse gases collected throughout Europe are essential to enabling national governments to improve their efforts towards attenuation, and for intergovernmental organisations to take informed decisions when  seeking to determine how to meet the requirements laid down in international treaties”, continues Mr Kutsch.  The Paris climate agreement and the UN Carbon Observation Protocol negotiated recently in Bonn are examples of such treaties.

The stations that were recently certified are based in Germany, Belgium, France, Finland and Italy.

One of these certified stations forms part of the Permanent Environment Observatory managed by the ANDRA Research and Development Division and is based in eastern France. “Since 2011 and the start of the ICOS project, we have been continuously measuring atmospheric CO2, CH4 and N2O levels, as well as carbon exchanges over forests”, explains Sébastien Conil, the station manager.

“During the next three years, France is planning the accreditation of four atmospheric stations, 11 ecosystem monitoring stations and a station to measure air/sea CO2 exchanges on board a commercial vessel”, explains Denis Loustau, Research Director at INRA and the coordinator of ICOS France (www.icos-france.fr). France is also responsible for the Atmosphere Thematic Centre based in the Île-de-France region (Saclay) at the CNRS/CEA/UVSQ Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory which processes atmospheric measurements from all ICOS stations as well as assuring technology watch on greenhouse gas emissions. It is also participating in the Ecosystems Thematic Centre, notably through the conduct of chemical analyses and the archiving of soil and plant samples for the entire European network of Ecosystems stations.  

ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) is a European research network on greenhouse gases.

ICOS produces normalised data on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and carbon flows between the atmosphere, continents and oceans. This information is essential to predicting and mitigating climate change. These normalised ICOS data are obtained from measurements performed by 140 stations spread between 12 European countries. As an intergovernmental organisation, ICOS is funded by its Member States.

Website: www.icos-ri.eu

Scientific contact(s):

Press Relations:
INRA News Office, (33 (0)1 42 75 91 86 )
Associated Division(s):
Environment and Agronomy, Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology
Associated Centre(s):

Other contacts

Werner Kutsch, Director General, ICOS
Tel. +35 (8) 5 04 48 45 98 or email: werner.kutsch@icos-ri.eu

Denis Loustau, Coordinator, ICOS France (www.icos-france.fr)
Tel. + 33 (0) 5 57 12 28 51 or email: denis.loustau@.inra.fr
INRA-Bordeaux Sciences Agro Joint Research Unit for Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Interactions (ISPA)
Environment and Agronomy Division, and Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology Division.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine – Bordeaux Research Centre

Sébastien Conil, Atmospheric Station Manager – Permanent Environment Laboratory, ANDRA
Tel. +33 (0)3 29 77 43 27 or email: sebastien.conil@andra.fr

Michel Ramonet, Coordinator of the Atmosphere Network, CNRS/CEA/UVSQ Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory - LSCE
Tel. +33 (0)1 69 08 40 14 or email: michel.ramonet@lsce.ipsl.fr

Léonard Rivier, Director of the Atmosphere Thematic Centre, LSCE (CNRS/CEA/UVSQ)
Tel. +33 (0)1 69 08 71 22 or email: leonard.rivier@lsce.ipsl.fr

Eric Dufrêne, Coordinator of the Ecosystem Network, Université Paris-Sud/CNRS/AgroParisTech Joint Laboratory for Ecology, Systematics and Evolution
Tel. +33 (0)1 69 15 56 80 or email: eric.dufrene@u-psud.fr