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Environmental monitoring

Zeppelinobservatoriet på Svalbard. Foto: Ove Hermansen, NILU
Zeppelinobservatoriet på Svalbard

Monitoring is the basis for all environmental research. From advanced satellite measurements to simple precipitation sampling in the Norwegian mountains, monitoring is the foundation for acquiring knowledge about the state of the environment.

Environmental monitoring is important in order to study and understand the climate system and the effects of climate change. The results also apply widely to other issues, from health impacts to effects on ecosystems and changes in biodiversity.

NILU mainly monitors the following areas:

  • Airborne transport, including environmental contaminants
  • Climate
  • Ozone layer and UV

For information on our air quality monitoring in cities, see Urban Air Quality.

NILU’s monitoring programme

Air travels over large distances in a short period of time, and problematic airborne constituents we identify can often originate far beyond Norway’s borders. The goal of monitoring is to record levels and possible changes in the composition of the atmosphere. NILU’s environmental monitoring takes place at so-called background stations that are positioned to be minimally affected by nearby sources of emissions.

Overall, the monitoring programme includes twenty stations (see figure): greenhouse gases are monitored at two stations, the ozone layer at three, environmental contaminants at three, and long-range transported pollutants at a total of 18 stations.

Figur som viser oversikt over NILUs målestasjoner i Norge

The monitoring activity is linked to several different international programmes and research infrastructures, such as EMEP (The European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme) under UN’s Convention on Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), ACTRIS (European Research Infrastructure for the Observation of Aerosol, Clouds, and Trace gases), ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) and WMO/GAW (World Meteorological Organization/Global Atmosphere Watch).

National monitoring

The national environmental monitoring is divided into three main programmes (links to the Norwegian Environment Agency’s web pages, in Norwegian only):

The monitoring series are the crown jewels of environmental management

Most of NILU’s monitoring is conducted within the national monitoring programmes funded by the Norwegian Environment Agency. Some of the time series are funded by the Ministry of Climate and Environment (KLD) programme for long time series.

A crucial factor in making monitoring data both valuable and useful is the longevity of the series. Measurements may have to span over decades to be of use for understanding and documenting changes in the composition of the atmosphere. The measurements must also be carried out with sufficient time resolution, so that one can relate the composition to atmospheric transport and conversion.

Several of NILU’s long time series are based on nearly 40 years’ worth of uninterrupted measurements. Internationally, few time series extend over decades. This makes the Norwegian time series especially valuable in an international research perspective.