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Research and public service in the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere of the Earth and other planets, and of outer space.

Acid rain is over ten times more acidic than pure rainwater, causing damage to structures and buildings, but most importantly to vegetation (e.g. food crops). BIRA-IASB researchers contributed to a study, lead by the ULB and the German FZJ, which finally sheds light on the formation mechanism of formic acid, a substance that has an impact on the acidity of the atmosphere and rainwater.

With an ever-growing world population, and the ongoing increase in energy consumption, the effects of human activity on the natural environment have never been more relevant. In order to understand and mitigate the resulting problems, such as atmospheric pollution (air quality) and climate change, the whole Earth system (land, oceans, atmosphere and the interactions between them) needs to be carefully monitored.

Although the emissions of key air pollutants caused by human activities (traffic, industry etc.) have sharply decreased in response to COVID-19 disruptions, the atmospheric levels of secondary pollutants like ozone have been found to increase in several places around the world. BIRA-IASB researchers contributed to the first global model study aimed at elucidating and quantifying the causes for this apparent paradox.

BIRA-IASB is preparing a new space instrument, 3DEES, in consortium with the Université Catholique de Louvain and QinetiQ Space, to study the Earth's space radiation environment on board ESA's PROBA-3 satellite.

Stratospheric aerosols originate for the most part from volcanic eruptions and have a large influence on the Earth’s atmosphere and climate. BIRA-IASB is involved in the monitoring of these aerosols, delivering high quality data to centralised databases like the Copernicus programme, to be integrated in climatological models, among other things.

March 21st is International Forest Day, an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests. Trees emit isoprene, which strongly affects atmospheric chemistry and Earth's climate. BIRA-IASB scientists work on estimating how much isoprene is released, an important element in climate modelling and tackling climate change.