The €8.4m Amazonian Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) is taller than the Eiffel Tower and will start collecting data on heat, water, cloud formation, carbon absorption and weather patterns over the rainforest later this year. It will link up with two smaller towers to collect data for 20 to 30 years.

Scientists are currently on-site installing equipment that will create a better understanding of the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Due to the height of the tower they can investigate the alteration and movement of air over a distance of several hundred kilometres.

The Amazon is a huge store of locked-up carbon. When the forest is cut away or burned, carbon is released. Deforestation is globally responsible for up to 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

ATTO is a joint project between the Max Planck Institute, the Brazilian National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) and the University of the State of Amazonas.

Max Planck Society’s project coordinator Jürgen Kesselmeier said: “We do not yet adequately understand the role that the rain forest plays in the formation of aerosol particles and therefore in cloud formation. A whole range of secrets is waiting to be discovered using our new measurement tower.”

King of the jungle

Built in the Uatuma nature reserve, 217 miles from the sounds and pollutions of Manaus, ATTO can collect data, undisturbed from human influence.

“We chose the location in the Brazilian rain forest as it is largely situated away from human influences and therefore guarantees relatively unperturbed data,” explains Meinrat O. Andreae, director of the Biogeochemistry Department at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

“ATTO will allow scientists to carry out their measurements in higher layers of the atmosphere and more continuously than before, so that more reliable statements about the development of our atmosphere are to be expected.”

Lungs of the world

The tower was inaugurated just two days after Germany chancellor Angela Merkel’s state visit to Brazil where Germany donated €23m to help Brazil establish a rural land registry aimed at increasing monitoring of the Amazon.

Brazil has made excellent progress in slowing deforestation and protecting land in the Amazon region. The country has committed to restore 12 million hectares of forests by 2030.

The UK has previously worked with Brazil to create a carbon cycle study in the Amazon.

Matt Mace

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