Cruise ship to track Mediterranean pollution

A commercial cruise liner has been equipped with state-of-the-art monitoring equipment so it can collect pollution data for Eurocrats as it sails tourists around the Med.

The Italian pleasure liner Costa Fortuna follows a regular route in the western Mediterranean during spring, summer and autumn and the on-board monitoring station will allow analysts to build up a picture of pollution over the sea, where measurements are rarely taken.

EU Commissioner for Research, Janez Potoènik, said: “this partnership is a good example of the private and public sectors working together to find new ways of obtaining data which is important for our understanding of climate change.”

The Mediterranean’s pleasant climate draws millions of tourists to Southern Europe every year.

However, the climate conditions, though sought after by holiday-makers, are expected to cause increasing problems for agriculture, ecosystems and drinking water resources.

Model calculations suggest that the impact of atmospheric greenhouse gases from man-made sources will further reduce rainfall in the area, thus leading to enhanced drought problems.

In fact, the trend observed in the last century in this area has been towards lower rainfall.

Beside the long-life greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, also short-lived air pollutants such as ozone in the lower atmosphere and light-absorbing particles – so-called black carbon – seem to cause important man-made influences in the absorption of radiation in the atmosphere.

In the Mediterranean Basin, air pollution comes from urban centres along the coast, from long-range transport and from intense shipping traffic.

Research has shown that the impact of aerosols on radiation in this area is among the highest in the world, thus making the Mediterranean an ideal study site for climate research.

It is believed that the heating of the lower atmosphere, caused by the enhanced absorption of light due to air pollution, can reduce rain clouds and thus intensify droughts.

By Sam Bond

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