From Sète to the North

Seté was a sleepy-looking village on the mediterranean coast.

Seté was a sleepy-looking village on the mediterranean coast.

We arrived at Sète (close to Montpellier) around 10 p.m. last night, just in time before the hotel manager called it a day. This was good for us as the car is a bit small for 4 persons to sleep in… A bit of manoeuvring (thats maneuvering in US english, a fact that I just learned via Google) in the parking lot and a quick zero-level check, and we were ready for some food and a well-earned drink.

Except that all the restaurants near our slightly tired-looking, last-time-fashionable-in-the-80s hotel were closed. Some frantic hunting of restaurants ensued, but luckily we managed to find a place before the blame game about who chose the hotel 5 km from the city center started (it was me). Bellies full and all good, we went to sleep around midnight. Data analysis was postponed to a better time.

After a long day, even researchers need food. And it was good.

After a long day, even researchers need food. And it was good.

The lab found a cosy parking spot behind the hotel

The lab found a cosy parking spot behind the hotel

This morning we were at breakfast as soon as it started at 8. Strengthened by some crispy croissants and café au lait we headed north. The first hour we decided to travel on smaller roads to get a bit of background data, but then we hit the motorway and haven’t really left it except for (an unintentional) tour of the Lyon city centre. Now we are closing in on the Germany/Luxembourg border.

Our approximate whereabouts at the moment.

Our approximate whereabouts at the moment.

Measurements-wise we are better than expected, all instruments are running close to 100% and we are seeing all kinds of interesting phenomena. One thing that can be said directly is that there are some (mostly older) heavy duty vehicles that could well be responsible for the existence of half of the particle number that can be found on the highway; we can ‘see’ their emission from tens, even hundreds of meters away –  and this in the middle of a steady stream of other cars. Our new TSAR (TUT Secondary Aerosol Reactor) instrument is working fine and shows that at times it’s not only about the particles that come out of the tailpipe, but also the gases that can potentially produce particles when transformed by sunlight in the atmosphere. Measuring this secondary aerosol is one of our key missions on this trip.

Tomorrow we are planning to take on Germany, and visit the Jülich Research centre, one of the top research institutes on secondary atmospheric aerosols. We’ll report back with news and more pictures, and hopefully I can convince someone else from our team to share his thoughts. Au revoir!

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Here we go! Trans-European Aerosol Measurements day one.

A set of our aerosol instruments were used for  performing successful measurements at an industrial site in Northern Spain. Because we now have a mobile laboratory and the instruments were in Spain, the masterminds at the TUT Aerosol Physics lab developed a clever plan: why not bring the instruments back to Finland while they are still running? And because the only thing more fun than planning things is actually doing things, we are now on the road somewhere between San Sebastian and Montpellier.

Setting up the measurements in Bilbao

Setting up the measurements in Bilbao

Our team of 4, (Antti, Erkka, Miska, and myself) set the mobile measurements up on parking area of the airport hotel in Bilbao, and got everything ready at about noontime. After about half an hour of fine-tuning the instrument setup – we have 9 different instruments running simultaneously – we were ready to go.

Measurements are ready to go

Measurements are ready to go

Because we were still fresh and full of purpose and the spirit of adventure, we decided that the first leg should go over the mountains and to the shoreline of the Biscay Bay. The mountains proved to be an interesting place to measure, as we could for example see the emissions of heavy duty vehicles and the change they undergo when reaching the mountaintop and starting to brake with the engine: lots and lots of very small particles. At times we saw concentrations of more than 1.8 million particles per cubic centimeter of air, which is really high even on highway standards. After a few hours of happy driving we reached Getaria at the Atlantic coast and stopped to take a few photos.

Miikka looking at the Bay of Biscay

Miikka looking at the Bay of Biscay

The view was great, and refreshed by it we were ready to take on the crossing to the Mediterranean Sea. Miska took the wheel and Antti followed in the service van.

The service van is our trusted companion

The service van is our trusted companion

Except a few short stopovers for food and gasoline, we have made quite good time and distance today, and the measurements have been running nicely. The weather is warm, which caused some initial concerns  because we thought that we have to do some juggling with the cooling system to save battery, but up to now we have been slowly gaining power while driving, so all seems to go smoothly. The main setback at the beginning was the attack of some birds that soiled the beautiful outside of our mobile lab; luckily, this was easily fixed.

Cleaning the car of bird droppings

Cleaning the car of bird droppings

We’ll try to post a detailed route description later today or tomorrow, when we get the GPS data plotted. Now we have still three hours of driving to do, so I’ll sign off for now. Moro!