Collaborative air quality & climate research expedition powered by Acoem instruments

17 Jan 2018

The ground-breaking Air Quality and Climate Change in the Arabian Basin (AQABA) project assembled a dedicated international team to conduct critical research into the effects of air pollution in the region.

The international research team in front of the “Kommandor Iona”. Image courtesy of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC)

Acoem Australasia was proud to partner with some of the world’s most respected environmental research institutions to study air quality and climate change on the AQABA expedition around the Arabian Peninsula, conducted over a 40-day period between June and August 2017.

Coordinated by Dr Jos Lelieveld, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC), Germany, and in collaboration with Dr Jean Sciare, Director at the Institute in Mainz, Germany and Professor at the Cyprus Institute, Cyprus, this major scientific collaboration included the:

  • Cyprus Institute, Cyprus
  • Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KSIR)
  • University of Cairo (Egypt)
  • Zayed University (United Arab Emirates)
  • King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia)
  • University of California, San Diego (USA)
  • National Center for Scientific Research (Laboratory for Climate and Environmental Science, France).

The expedition’s ship, the Kommandor Iona, journeyed from Southern France across the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal to Kuwait and back, covering approximately 20,000 kilometres.

The project’s goal was to gain a better understanding of the influence of air pollution on the natural environment. It investigated the processes that determine the life cycle of natural and anthropogenic aerosols and oxidants and looked at their role in air quality and public health, as well as impacts on clouds, climate and biogeochemical cycles.

Creating a unique floating laboratory

The intense sunlight of the Arabian Peninsula during summer presented an ideal opportunity for highly active photochemistry. The diversity of air and climate within the geographical area meant that researchers encountered a wide spectrum of conditions:

    • Moderately polluted conditions over the Mediterranean
    • Pristine air around the Arabian sea
    • Dusty air from Africa in the Red sea
    • Air polluted by urban outflow and ship exhaust fumes in the Middle East
    • Air tainted by petrochemical emissions in the Persian Gulf.

The AQABA expedition route indicating prevailing wind directions.
Image courtesy of MPIC.

Acoem supplied the expedition with the:

  • AuroraTM 3000 multi-wavelength integrating nephelometer
  • Serinus®60 direct nitrogen dioxide analyser
  • CongregoTM data acquisition system. CongregoTM is a next generation data acquisition system designed by Acoem replaced WinAQMSTM.

The monitoring equipment collected data on the chemical composition of the atmosphere along the ship’s route. It also provided essential data to support other ongoing research, including gas-aerosol interactions and studies on the atmospheric chemistry of dust, sea salt and other natural emissions interacting with air pollution from various sources.

“Precision monitoring instruments play an integral role in the success of projects like AQABA,” said Professor Jean Sciare, Director of the Energy, Environment and Water Research Center at The Cyprus Institute.

“Acoem’s involvement and ongoing collaboration with the scientific community is a testament to our shared vision of coming together to help identify and solve environmental problems,” he added.

Real-time monitoring and accurate data to affect change

AQABA was the largest and most comprehensive atmospheric chemistry and aerosol consignment taken into the field on a ship to date. The instruments detected aerosol particles and gases from the bow of the ship and for the first time, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) were deployed from the vessel to collect data on the vertical structure of the lower troposphere, simultaneously and comprehensively characterising photochemical and aerosol processes.

Initial measurements from the AQABA expedition already indicate the critical impact air pollution is having on public health, nutrient cycles and climate change.

“Acoem is committed to working with research facilities and academia to help make a positive difference to our environment,” commented Felicity Sharp, Country Operating Officer, Acoem UK.

“Having worked with Professor Sciare and his team on a number of occasions, we recognised that this was an important opportunity to contribute to a pioneering study that has the power to influence global environmental decision making in the future,” she added.

For more information about Acoem’s role in the AQABA project, or to learn more about how scientists around the world use Acoem monitoring equipment to help their research, please contact Felicity Sharp at or +33 4 72 52 48 00.

Learn more about this expedition from the following scientific papers:


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