Atmospheric analysis in the midst of the Amazon forest: The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory celebrates its anniversary

It appears like a spike, orange towards the blue sky, protruding the inexperienced ocean of the Amazon forest: Standing 325 m tall, the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) is the very best development in South America. This tower celebrates its fifth anniversary this yr, whereas the ATTO analysis web site, situated ~150 km northeast of Manaus, Brazil, has been in operation for 10 years.

The ATTO tower on a stormy day . Picture: Sebastian Brill, Artistic Commons license (CC BY-NC 4.0).

In the course of the previous 5 years, I often visited the ATTO web site, making atmospheric measurements for my PhD. After all, I personally didn’t expertise the beginnings of the mission. I solely know from the tales of the ATTO pioneers how the lodging again then consisted of a plastic tarp erected over some hammocks. How the one technique of transport to get from the Uatumã River to the primary web site was once your individual ft and two quad bikes, the latter primarily loaded with baggage. How termites ate the wood flooring of the primary lab containers. These days, ATTO appears like a house in the midst of the wilderness. Sure, we nonetheless sleep in hammocks, and varied sorts of animals similar to tarantulas and geckoes can at all times be anticipated to go to the dorm or bogs. However we now have excessive tech instrumentation sitting in air-conditioned, fairly termite-safe lab containers, we now have a roof above our heads and showers within the rest room, we now have satellite tv for pc web and TV, and a number of other pick-up vans can be found to move us and our baggage. Whereas the primary atmospheric measurements on the web site have been made at a 81 m mast, now you can discover a number of towers and masts there, together with the 325 m tall tower. Transformation has been a continuing on the web site since its institution. The logistics of constructing all of this attainable at such an inaccessible location are an unimaginable joint effort of Brazilian and German cooperation companions. They introduced each single merchandise, together with autos, development tools and all tower components, by ship through the Uatumã River, which solely carries sufficient water for the transport of heavy items through the wet season.

The concept for the mission, originating from a “pipe dream” (M. Andreae), is to check biogeochemical cycles within the Amazon forest, its interplay with the soil beneath and the ambiance above. The analysis groups “try to shut a spot within the international local weather monitoring community and hope to realize deeper perception into the basic ideas of gasoline trade and cloud formation in tropical rainforests. With the findings from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory we need to enhance local weather prediction fashions and to acknowledge the significance of the Amazon throughout the local weather system.” (Cited from

Scientists on their method again to the camp from one of many towers. Picture: Eva Pfannerstill, Artistic Commons license (CC BY-NC 4.0)

When you’re at ATTO, you will discover researchers climbing up the towers to keep up atmospheric measurements or accumulate samples, others climbing up the timber to place sensors in mosses, strolling within the forest to map timber, digging holes within the soil, sitting at a microscope or a display screen in one of many lab containers, dragging a gasoline bottle behind them in a cart alongside the paths by way of the forest, establishing new or disassembling malfunctioning instrumentation. Producer assist is way away and the web connection is gradual – so creativity in troubleshooting is one factor you positively be taught when working at a distant place just like the ATTO web site.

The nice ambiance among the many ATTO crew and scientists from varied international locations is without doubt one of the the explanation why folks like to return again right here regardless of the hardships and risks of working at a distant location in tropical warmth and humidity. The sweetness and uniqueness of the Amazon forest is definitely one more reason why one can fall in love with the ATTO web site. Falling asleep in a hammock whereas listening to the symphony of frogs and cicadas, being woke up by the calls of howling monkeys, recognizing river dolphins and fruit-picking toucans, or assembly an armadillo in entrance of a lab container are experiences I’ll always remember. Any wildlife sighting is made extra particular by the truth that the rainforest, whereas filled with noise, is hiding its many inhabitants very effectively. Like many first-time guests to Amazonia, I anticipated it to look extra like a Nationwide Geographic documentary crammed with colourful flowers and animals. Nevertheless, under the cover, what you see is usually brown, inexperienced, and twilight. Any flowers normally blossom on high of the timber, and most animals are intelligent sufficient to cover effectively earlier than a slipshod scientist stomps throughout their path.

Dawn seen from the highest of the ATTO Tower. The little “toothpick” proper of the middle is an 80 m walk-up tower. Picture: Eva Pfannerstill, Artistic Commons license (CC BY-NC 4.0)

We scientists at ATTO are privileged to have the ability to go away the humid twilight of the cover and climb as much as the 320 m platform, getting the gorgeous view of nothing however forest, clouds and rivers until the horizon. Hopefully, the data in regards to the significance of the Amazon for our planet’s wellbeing, additionally generated right here at ATTO, will make us people protect this biome, in order that the forest will stay – even when this analysis web site is historical past in the future.

Extra info on the ATTO web site might be discovered right here together with a set of publications ensuing from ATTO analysis. Please additionally try the ATTO particular subject in ACP!

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