Fire and dust on mountains

by Patrik Winiger


Sahara dust and wildfire smoke occasionally make their way to Switzerland. But how much? And what is their molecular composition? Help me answer these questions!

CHF 15’851

158% of CHF 10’000

158 %
This is how it worksä

The «all or nothing» principle applies: The project only receives the funds if the funding target is reached or exceeded.

38 backers

Successfully concluded on 21/7/2023

Forest fires and Sahara dust on top of Europe

We want to find new chemical fingerprints that will provide insights into the amount of air particles from Sahara dust and forest fires present in the atmosphere. With current methods, we find it somewhat challenging to assign them accurately.

These particles are harmful to health, among other things. Depending on their composition and position in the atmosphere, they can also have a warming or cooling effect on the climate.

Our measurements improve simulations and forecasts.

We are also investigating how these different air masses and compositions have changed recently. This information can then be used for computer models to compare observations with simulations and find model parameters that better align the simulations with the observations. Modeling particles cannot yet be performed as accurately as we would like, especially in mountainous regions.

For these investigations, we rely on filters (15cm in diameter, thin quartz fiber discs) collected at the Jungfraujoch as part of the National Air Pollution Monitoring Network (NABEL) by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA). Air is drawn through such a filter for 24 hours each filter. In the laboratory of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), we have already analyzed filters from 2011 to 2021, thousands of them. They were measured in parallel using three different mass spectrometers, each providing chemical information about the molecular composition of the particles on the filters.

Almost there

In order to complete our analyses, we require measurements from an external laboratory at the University of Grenoble-Alpes. These measurements were budgeted when I prepared the project budget in 2020. However, due to inflation, the prices have increased to a point where they now exceed our budget.

For these measurements, we are focusing on filters that have been marked as Sahara dust and wildfire episodes by MeteoSwiss and one of our colleagues. Therefore, only a fraction of the over 4000 filters will be examined (also for cost reasons).

Ein neuer Filter und einer nach einem Tag Saharastaub
Ein neuer Filter und einer nach einem Tag Saharastaub