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Aviation for Science
Black Carbon pollution research
Mediterranean 2017

Black Carbon

Pollution by Black Carbon

The incomplete combustion of fuels containing carbon (such as gasoline, diesel, natural gas, wood and other biomasses) results in the emission of aerosols, small particles which pollute the air and are harmful to people’s health. An important part of these emissions is soot, known by its scientific name: Black Carbon (BC). It is inert and can be transported over great distances. It also highly absorbs sunlight, which is the reason for its name – it has a very black appearance.


BC heats the atmosphere through the absorption of sunlight and is recognized as a very important cause of global warming, second only to CO2. Although BC measurements can increase the knowledge on these topics, they are scarce at global background locations. The GLWF flights are an opportunity to carry out measurements on such a scale. We modified the aircraft and installed an aerosol inlet on the wing, with tubing carrying the sampled air to the prototype Aethalometer – the instrument for measuring BC we developed for this very occasion.


We have demonstrated during the previous GLWF round-the-world and the North Pole campaigns that an instrumented ultra lightweight aircraft can provide valuable information on BC concentrations, their regional heterogeneity and vertical profiles with a minor payload and for a fraction of the cost associated with large airborne platforms. We trust that the campaigns will initiate a change of the measurement paradigm and a start of measurements campaigns on a really large scale.

Dr. Griša Mo─Źnik