Australian Weather Calendar

Captions and picture bylines below.
Jeremy Ward inspects an air particle sampler on the instrument deck at Cape Grim, Tasmania. Red dots indicate carbon dioxide concentrations at Cape Grim on the cleanest days, when the wind blows off the Southern Ocean. Blue dots show concentrations on the more polluted days.

June: A new target for global air pollution monitoring

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TECHNICAL officer Jeremy Ward lives with the buffeting of Roaring Forties westerlies striking Cape Grim in northwest Tasmania. Beyond taking conventional weather observations in an environment with winds often exceeding 100 km/h, Jeremy maintains instruments that measure more than 100 different atmospheric pollutants, and takes air samples for future analysis.

The Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station, opened in 1976, is one of a handful of similar stations worldwide reporting to the World Meteorological Organization. The Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO jointly take observations of atmospheric composition, especially the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and chemicals depleting the ozone layer.

Cape Grim’s carbon dioxide trace provides telling data for climate change studies; concentrations there have increased 15 per cent since 1976. The latest addition to its observations is mercury vapour, linked to health impacts.