Hello World!

It’s happening – METENVIA, the research unit “Meteorology, Environment and Aviation” of the Centre for Aviation from ZHAW just came alive!

In the forthcoming weeks and months, we will tackle mostly aviation-related ongoing environmental and meteorological challenges. Yet, our competencies don’t stop there; we will contribute to other projects fitting to our mission statement. Stay tuned to get to know more about the latter!

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AGU Fall Meeting, 2019

If you are going to San Francisco …

It is uncommon to get such a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge without fog (photographed from the top of Coit tower).

…make sure your poster tube fits in the overhead bin. On December 7, 2019, I was boarding a flight to San Francisco to attend the AGU Fall Meeting (American Geophysical Union). And judging by the frequent occurrence of poster tubes sticking up in the line of passengers waiting to board the plane, I was by far not the only one. My neighbor on the plane, a postdoc from the UK, an atmospheric scientist, was also going to the same place. Seeing so many scientists on just one plane made me realize the monstrous proportions of this event: around 25’000 participants from all around the world were expected to attend the 100th AGU fall meeting. AGU encompasses a wide range of subjects related to our planet and beyond. I was going there as a poster presenter and a co-chair of a session on aircraft emissions.

Keynote lecture given by the former NASA astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison.

Back in April 2019, I was asked by a colleague from NASA Langley, Rich Moore, whom I briefly got to know a few years ago (at another conference), to co-chair a session on aircraft emissions at the AGU. I had heard about the AGU (especially about its proportions) but never attended before. Our first mission as session chairs (we were four, including Christiane Voigt from DLR and Rick Miake-Lye from Aerodyne research) was to invite people to submit contributions. We received about 30 contributions, from which we picked 8 oral presentations and the rest were assigned as poster presentations (including all session chairs). We submitted our program to the program committee by the end of August. At the beginning of October, I received a confirmation e-mail about the acceptance of my presentation and invitation to serve as a chair for the session. AGU was a go!

With an event of such size, you need a proper venue. The conference took place in the freshly rebuilt Moscone convention center. The center has three wings (South, North, and West) and the poster sessions were held in a massive underground hall between the South and North wings with several thousand posters being presented on a given day and overall, more than 7000 presentations were given during the conference.

One of the lecture halls used for keynote speeches.

The speakers in our session “Aircraft engine emissions impacts on air quality, cloud formation and climate” gave high-quality presentations on a wide variety of subjects related to environmental impacts of air travel: ground emission measurements, airborne measurements, alternative fuel effects on emissions, contrails modeling, ambient air monitoring and novel instrumentation. Overall, the session was well attended and the audience asked intriguing questions. It went by all too quickly: only 15 minutes per talk including questions. That is why I usually get more out of a poster session. 

Program of the session on aviation emissions.

My poster dealt with a comparison of measured emissions of non-volatile particulate matter (the solid component of soot composed of light-absorbing carbon, also known as black carbon) from a wide range of aircraft engines with a method based on emissions certification data. Our results show that in-service engines can widely vary in terms of their emissions profile and often have higher particle emissions than the estimates based on their certified smoke number (a measure of exhaust smoke visibility), especially in terms of the particle number emissions (number of particles emitted per kg fuel burned). Getting the best possible answers is crucial for scientific assessments of environmental impacts. Investigating the effects of engine aging on emissions and emissions variability is the focus of our project AGEAIR.

Lukas in front of his poster.

Although big conferences like the AGU Meeting feel impersonal, they always attract big names and you never run out of things to do in smaller groups and you can always meet people that work on similar topics like you. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to listen to and meet some of the leading scientists and policymakers who see the big picture. As the AGU put it, “as scientists and engineers, we must continue to engage with policymakers, communities, businesses, and the public to undertake solution-oriented research and analysis. Scientific institutions, including academia and governmental agencies, should expand and prioritize their support for research, application, and knowledge dissemination to address the climate crisis.”

Listen to the penguin!

Visit of MeteoSwiss HQ with our students

Each year, I am teaching around 60-80 students some meteorological basics. The courses include a wrap-up of first year physics, and builds upon this knowledge to introduce some applied notions of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics (see course description here).

The main aim of the course is to enable students to understand, categorize and maybe even generate own weather forecasts, with a special focus on the most important hazardous weather phenomena both for commerical and general aviation.

Thanks to the very fruitful collaboration with MeteoSwiss, interested students have always been able to join a guided tour through the MeteoSwiss Headquarters at the airport of Zurich.

The tour mostly begins with a short welcome note on the observation deck, before boarding a passenger bus leading to the threashold of runway 16. There, the tour guide shows and explains the different meteorological instruments partly used for the meteorological report (METAR). The group is then lead to the meteorological observation platform. There, the duty of an “aeronautical meteorological observer” (see here for a definition) is introduced to the students.

Group of students walking up the stairs to the weather observation tower

Finally, the forecasting front office is shown, were one of the two on-duty forecasters answer the – mostly numerous – questions of the students.

Once again, it was a very interesting guided tour, and all our students were extremely happy to have been able to take part.

Many thanks to Peter Meyer, Martin Dätwyler, Thomas Jordi, Andreas Asch and the remaining team of MeteoSwiss to make this yearly tour possible!

METENVIA – and our mission

We are a team of highly motivated atmospheric and environmental scientists. We are especially curious about aircraft engine emissions and how they impact local air quality. In addition, we look for new ways to improve the awareness of aviation professionals towards meteorological effects on aviation, environmental protection, and global climate change.

From left: C. Spirig, L. Durdina, J. Anet, J. Edebeli, S. Fluck

We pursue mainly three goals:

First, we aim to generate new scientific knowledge, e.g. about the toxicity and the environmental burden of aircraft engine emissions. We are convinced that passenger aircraft will rely on gas turbine engines throughout the next decades. Therefore with our measurement data, we analyze different possible elements impacting emission characteristics, such as environmental factors, fuel composition, engine technology and engine age. Aircraft emissions and their impact on regional air quality within the boundary layer and on the ground are still poorly understood despite many years of work. Thus, through modeling studies, we aim to visualize and quantify aviation effect on the chemical composition of the air.

Second, meteorological factors regularly impact air transport frequently leading to delays, often to incidents, and sometimes to accidents. Our vision is to improve the awareness of aviation staff towards weather-related factors by focusing on easy-to-understand teaching methods, and simulation and visualization of meteorological processes. As well, we support knowledge transfer within the meteorological community as much as possible.

Finally, we act as consultants whenever know-how generation about environmental protection or climate change is required. This includes, among others, modelling studies or redaction support.

We are driven by the urgent need to address global climate change and environmental protection by paradigm shifts within all branches of mobility.