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ALTIUS: Atmospheric Limb Tracker for the Investigation of the Upcoming Stratosphere

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Stratospheric depletion of ozone and climate change by greenhouse gases represent two major challenges for our present and future existence on Earth, and the need to monitor the evolution of these gases is widely accepted. ALTIUS is a BIRA-IASB satellite instrument that is proposed as a solution to the near-future lack of instruments able to measure global altitude-resolved concentration profiles for a number of atmospheric species. The project benefits from multiple connections with Belgian universities and other international research groups. Its launch is scheduled in 2022.
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ALTIUS is a space mission aiming at the remote sensing of key atmospheric constituents with a high vertical resolution.

Since the initial idea of the instrument, the project has evolved slowly but steadily until 2016, when BELSPO announced that it would support the mission end-to-end, and the ESA Earth Observation Programme Board officially accepted ALTIUS as an element of the Earth Watch programme. The ALTIUS team at BIRA-IASB continues to work in parallel with industrial partners on activities related to:

  • calibration
  • data processing
  • instrument/platform simulations

After decades of sustained development, the number of atmospheric profilers is drastically dropping, leaving the scientific community with only a couple of instruments up to 2020. Meanwhile, early signs of a worldwide ozone recovery show a complex pattern: trends vary in sign and amplitude as a function of latitude and altitude, while growing evidence suggests a strong coupling between climate change and ozone recovery.

An instrument capable of following the evolution of the ozone field together with other species such as NO2, H2O, CH4, aerosols—with a good vertical resolution— is mandatory to support modelling activities and, eventually, political decisions.

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ALTIUS, a solution to the near-future lack of instruments able to measure global altitude-resolved concentration profiles for a number of atmospheric species
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Figure 3 caption (legend)
Stratospheric depletion of ozone and climate change by greenhouse gases represent two major challenges for our present and future existence on Earth, and the need to monitor the evolution of these gases is widely accepted.