The need to refer to an independent laboratory on questions of air pollution monitoring led to the creation of the European Reference Laboratory for Air Pollution (ERLAP) of the IES Air and Climate Unit. ERLAP contributes to the correct development and implementation of Air Quality Directives in Europe.
The highly specialised laboratory works on the harmonisation and standardisation of measurement techniques, carries out measurement campaigns with mobile laboratories in areas of particular interest, analyses the chemical composition of toxic and carcinogenic compounds in air pollution and develops reference and equivalent measurement methods to provide support to the European Commission’s air quality policy.
The Air and Climate Unit of the IES runs one of only two stations in Italy that measure air pollution within the framework of the UNECE's European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP). The JRC EMEP Monitoring Station monitors concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3) and secondary aerosol precursors (SO2, NOx) as well as particulate matter. Daily aerosol samples are collected on quartz fiber filters to determine PM2.5 concentrations and chemical compositions. Weekly quartz samples are collected for the same analyses of PM10. Rainwater samples are also collected to assess the aerosol-wet deposition. The aerosol measurement programme has been enhanced to turn the JRC-EMEP station into a super-station where all the parameters needed to understand the interplay of ozone and aerosol with solar radiation are measured. As such, aerosol size distribution (in the range 8 nm - 10 µm), aerosol absorption and scattering coefficients are continuously monitored. Vertical profiling of aerosols is made every day using a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging laser beam), and seasonal campaigns are carried out to determine aerosol hygroscopicity with an HTDMA (Hygroscopic Tandem Differential Mobility Analyser). Other measurements using different types of filters or artifact free samplers are carried out during specific periods to assess the validity of the EMEP-recommended sampling methods.
The Air and Climate Unit of the IES currently manages an experimental flux tower in San Rossore, where continuous measurements of greenhouse gases (GHGs), water and energy fluxes are performed. Atmospheric concentrations of GHGs are also measured at a tower located on the JRC Ispra site.
The San Rossore station, set in a typical Mediterranean pine forest, has been operational since 1998. The site is designed for the long term monitoring of the ecosystem budget of carbon and GHGs. Due to the large size and uniformity of the forest and the favorable wind circulation (sea breeze), the measurements of turbulent fluxes at the site are of high quality and qualify the station as one of the most reliable for the estimation of net ecosystem productivity. The data series produced so far has been used in a series of synthesis papers dealing with the trends and inter-annual variability of the ecosystem carbon budget. The San Rossore site is part of the ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) initiative for a European infrastructure dedicated to high precision monitoring of GHGs and fluxes.
Ispra: The Air and Climate Unit of the IES established a GHG concentrations monitoring station for continuous high-accuracy measurements of CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, and CO at the JRC-Ispra site. It has been operational since late 2007 and can be characterised as a semi-rural valley station which is the only low altitude measurement site for GHGs near the highly industrialised and densely populated Po Valley area. The station is an important complement to the European monitoring network, which is still relatively sparse in southern Europe. In particular, it provides further information on GHG emissions from the Po valley area. Besides the use of these measurements for the inverse modelling of GHG emissions, parallel Radon (222Rn) measurements were added in 2008 in order to allow model-independent estimates of regional GHG emissions. The GHG monitoring activity is linked to the EU-funded IMECC (Infrastructure for Measurement of the European Carbon Cycle) and GEOmon (Global Earth Observation and Monitoring) projects. The Ispra GHG station is also part of the ICOS long-term European monitoring initiative. Near real-time (raw) CO2 and CH4 data from the Ispra GHG station are presented online at the GEOmon project website.