Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has partnered with The Cyprus Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany, on a major atmospheric research project named Atmospheric Research Expedition to Abu Dhabi (AREAD).

The partnership has seen an EAD research vessel fitted with advanced monitoring equipment supplied and operated by researchers of the Climate and Atmosphere Research Center (CARE-C) of The Cyprus Institute, a leading regional centre of excellence for air pollution and climate change research, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, a leading research institute focusing on chemical processes in the Earth system.

Led by EAD, the parties are collaborating on an oceanographic air quality and climate change monitoring expedition – a world-first that will cover three continents and eight major bodies of water, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf covering a distance of more than 10,000km. Around 30 high-profile experts from the three parties are involved in this expedition.

The expedition started on 25 November 2022 in the North Atlantic and will traverse the Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Suez, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, ending in the Arabian Gulf and Abu Dhabi waters in before the end of the year.

Sailing off the coasts of 25 countries, starting in Spain and ending in the UAE, the scientific undertaking will add valuable new data and contribute significantly to our understanding of coastal and marine air quality and climate change. More than 22 different parameters are being monitored, including air quality regulated parameters, greenhouse gas concentrations, as well as volatile organic compounds and aerosol properties.

To date, air quality data has been predominantly collected from land-based systems, while most of the air that impacts Abu Dhabi traverses seas and oceans, influencing local air quality in populated areas of the emirate when making landfall. An instrumented vessel offers the ideal platform from which to study the physical and chemical processes that occur offshore.

Her Excellency Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “We are honoured to be partnering with two of the world’s most authoritative and respected research institutes in their fields. This important agreement has helped us take a major step towards understanding how oceanic air quality affects Abu Dhabi, and how large-scale atmospheric circulation is essential in designing effective measures to help combat climate change and improve air quality and health in the emirate.

“From a scientific perspective, this important expedition is a world-first, covering three continents and eight major seas or oceans, and will cement EAD’s global position as a leader in the field of atmospheric research.”

Prof. Dr Jos Lelieveld, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, said: “This remarkable ship measurement expedition is the start of an international collaboration that aims at collecting and analysing unique datasets from a region of the world that has yet been data-sparse, providing the basis for both scientific discovery and the underpinning of air quality policies.” 

Prof. Jean Sciare, Director of CARE-C, The Cyprus Institute, added: “It is with great pleasure that we partake in this international collaboration, as the need to initiate atmospheric measurements such as the ones being gathered through this ship expedition, and continue and expand on them in coming years, is imperative. Data collected will be critical in enabling better simulation and prediction of air quality over the Gulf region, and informing effective measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation.”