Two million kilometres on commercial flights in the service of climate research: project CARIBIC
Lufthansa Group committed to climate research for close on 20 years
The CARIBIC flying laboratory will have rounded the earth 50 times. Now it has returned from its 80th research trip on board the Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 ”Leverkusen“. Since December 2004, the mobile observatory has been underway once monthly in the service of science and research, logging meantime a good two million in-flight kilometres. In that time, it has gathered data on more than 50 different gases and particulate compounds while cruising at an altitude of eight to twelve kilometres – in a layer of the earth’s atmosphere, which is of special scientific interest. Neither satellites nor ground-based equipment can measure climate-relevant parameters with anything like the same accuracy as measurements taken in-flight aboard aircraft.
The collected data contributes to better understanding of a sensitive region in the atmosphere – the boundary layer between the troposphere and stratosphere, where extremely complex processes occur and influence the radiation balance of the atmosphere and thereby the earth’s climate.
Under the guidance of the Mainz-based Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry, twelve other scientific institutions from across Europe as well as Lufthansa and Fraport participate in the EU research project CARIBIC (Civil Aircraft for the Regular Investigation of the Atmosphere Based on an Instrument Container).
Climate care is a prime corporate goal at the Lufthansa Group and climate research is a long-standing Lufthansa tradition.
Why are commercial aircraft particularly suited to this?
Civil aviation is suited to the study and observation of the atmosphere for several reasons:
- The Earth‘s atmosphere can be observed by satellites as well as from the ground. Both are remote sensing measurements. However, they have a relatively poor spatial resolution. Direct measurements on board aircraft, on the other hand, provide a much higher spatial resolution. Commercial aircraft, therefore, bridge the gap between observation satellite measurements and ground-based measurements.
- Aircraft fly at a higher level (tropopause), which is of particular importance for climate research.
- Aircraft fly worldwide, and so can observe the entirety of the Earth‘s atmosphere.
- Scheduled flights provide a high level of continuity and mean that longterm observations can be made that would not be possible with the individual flights made by special research aircraft, which are also much more expensive.
Further information from our project partners:
Film documentation from 2005
Project: CARIBIC Civil Aircraft for the Regular Investigation of the atmosphere Based on an Instrument Container
Objective: Basic research to help understand the Earth’s atmosphere.
Results: Observation of an annual increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere. New insights into transport processes of polluted air masses as well as cloud formation processes.
CARIBIC flight table 2004-2012
Special mission "Eyjafjallajökull"
The CARIBIC container undertook a special mission in April 2010 after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. Three ad-hoc measuring flights were carried out to measure the ash concentration in the volcanic cloud over Europe. Those measures were only possible because Lufthansa was the only airline ready-equipped to gather the required data through its participation in the CARIBIC project.