AEROCLOUD (2015-2019)

How do aerosols and clouds affect the East Antarctic climate?

The Setting : Princess Elisabeth Polar research station

The Belgian Princess Elisabeth (PE) research station is erected on the Utsteinen Ridge (71°57'S - 23°21'E ) and hosts campaigns since 2009. The station is located 173 km inland from the former Belgian Roi Baudouin base, built in 1958 on the ice shelf at Breid Bay in Dronning Maud Land. PE station stands at the foot of the Sør Rondane Mountains, Dronning Maud Land, and 55 km from the former Japanese Asuka station (1986 – 1992). Positioned halfway between Syowa station (684 km) and the Russian station Novolazarevskaya (431 km) it fills in a 1072 km unoccupied stretch between these two stations in one of the least occupied sectors of Antarctica

Location of the Princess Elisabeth research station on the ridge (right)), in Dronning Maud land, Antarctica (left). The colorshade represents the elevation asl and the brown in the inset denotes the presence of Rocks. Map created with QAntartcica.

Princess Elisabeth Polar base

The Princess Elisabeth Polar base is situated on a small relatively flat granite ridge, sticking out of the snow. The Ridge – oriented in a north-south direction – is 700 m long and a few meters wide and protrudes 20 m above the surrounding snow surface in the accumulation zone. The ridge has an altitude of almost 1400m above sea level. The station is constructed to rely on sustainable technology as the primary energy source (wind and solar power).


AEROCLOUD : the scientific project

Research project financed by Belspo (BR/143/A2/AEROCLOUD)

This project is framed in the continuity of the HYDRANT project : click here for more informations and results from the HYDRANT project .

Precipitation and clouds play a key role in the Earth's climate system. Clouds are an essential component in the conversion chain from atmospheric water vapor to precipitation. In turn, precipitation determines the water availability at the surface of the earth. Similarly for Antarctica, where precipitation is the only source of mass to the ice sheet. Yet, despite the importance of Antarctic precipitation and clouds, their representation in climate models remains problematic. This is unfortunate, as variations in precipitation will largely determine the contribu tion of the Antarctic ice sheet to sea level change. Natural and anthropogenic aerosols play a crucial role in the formation of clouds and precipitation. Since precipitation, cloud and aerosol processes are intertwined, only models that correctly represent these processes can give reliable future climate projections. The general objective of this project is to improve the understanding and modeling of precipitation, clouds and their interaction with aerosols in Dronning Maud Land (East Antarctica). In addition, it is essential that the measured boundary layer aerosols can be linked to higher atmospheric levels.


The most efficient way of measuring cloud-aerosol relations is the deployment of arrays of ground-based remote sensors that can both vertically and temporally resolve the aerosol, cloud, precipitation and meteorological state (Stevens and Feingold, 2009). The recently established Princess Elisabeth station in Dronning Maud Land (1390 m asl) is the only Antarctic site that currently deploys a set of ground-based remote sensors to study meteorology, clouds, precipitation and aerosols. The instrumentation has been set up for continuous operation, including the non-manned winter period. This facility, which was built during 2009-2012 and enables cutting edge research on clouds and precipitation and their interaction with aerosols.


The observations will be complemented with regional climate simulations for the Antarctic using the COSMO model in Climate Mode; (CCLM), which has already been applied for polar regions (Klein et al., 2001; Wacker et al., 2009; Hebbinghaus and Heinemann 2006). Especially in Antarctica, the parameterizations are poorly constraint by observations. The unique dataset from the instrumentation at the Princess Elisabeth station will be used to evaluate and improve this microphysical parameterization in the CCLM model. The CCLM double-moment scheme accounts for the effects of variations in cloud condensation nuclei and ice nuclei on mixed-phase clouds and precipitation. Therefore this model is particularly suitable to unravel aerosol indirect effects and to quantify processes and feedbacks involved. When using a very high resolution (kilometer scale), CCLM can be applied to study the feedback of cloud microphysics on atmospheric stability and dynamics.

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