Tiny Graciosa Island will soon set the stage for world-class climate change research. The United States and Portugal signed an agreement on March 27 to install a portable climate observatory in the second smallest island of the Azorean archipelago. Starting in May, measurements of cloud and aerosol properties from Graciosa's marine environment will be taken over 20 months. The non-stop data collection will be used to test and improve climate models and it is expected to greatly enhance the scientific understanding of the microscopic processes that occur in low-level marine clouds. The Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Mobile Facility is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. "The scientific community needs more comprehensive data about these cloud types for computer models to continue to improve simulations of future climate," said Anna Palmisano, associate director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research in a prepared statement. "The mobile facility's sophisticated instruments, combined with the length of the deployment, provide an unparalleled opportunity to help fill this gap." The agreement was signed at the Laboratório Regional de Engenharia Civil in Ponta Delgada, Azores.
The ceremony was attended by the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, David Ballard; Michael Kuperberg from the U.S. Department of Energy; the Consul for the United States in the Azores, Jean Manes; the Secretary of the Presidency for the Regional Government of the Azores, Andre Bradford; and the Regional Secretary for Science, Technology and Infrastructure for the Regional Government of the Azores, José Contente. Contente, speaking on behalf of the Government of the Azores, said the observatory will reinforce the hands-on skills of the Meteorological Institute of the University of Azores and will allow "Azores to take advantage of the most advanced skills in this area, that for example are important for Civil Protection." He also stated that the signing of this protocol represents the completion of yet another stage towards the Autonomous Region of the Azores becoming a scientific and technological cluster. "It's not enough to talk about the advantages of technologies and modernity, we must move forward with concrete projects that mark and materialize this new theoretical fundamentation and effectively serve the Azores," said Contente. According to the U.S Department of Energy, the 38-square-mile Graciosa Island is an ideal location for capturing a wide range of conditions because it typically experiences relatively clean atmospheric conditions with passing episodes of polluted air masses from nearby continents. Consul Manes said the Graciosa observatory will be one of only five mobile facilities in the world by the U.S. Department of Energy, and it represents an $4 million-plus investment under the 1995 Cooperation and Defense Agreement between the United States and Portugal. "It is also in the Department of Energy experience that once a site has been identified, then scientists from around the world also express interest in the location," she told O Jornal via email. "The data collected from the site will be available for free on the Internet to researchers and scientists around the world." The agreement formalizes scientific collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of the Azores, starting with the upcoming study "Clouds, Aerosol and Precipitation in the Marine Boundary Layer." Robert Wood of the University of Washington will lead the science team, which also has additional researchers from the United States, Chile and England. "This study will result in the first climatology of the high resolution vertical structure of cloud and precipitation properties of low clouds at a remote subtropical marine site," said Wood in a prepared statement. "This will be a highly significant contribution to the international climate research community."