Gape Grim

Atmosphere and land observation and assessment

Scientists are working to understand how interactions between the land and the atmosphere affect the Earth system.

  • 15 February 2011 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (CMAR) develops the knowledge and techniques required to monitor and analyse environmental processes in the atmosphere and at the land surface.

CMAR scientists engaged in Atmosphere and Land Observation and Assessment (ALOA) work primarily at laboratories in Aspendale (Melbourne) and Canberra and partner with the Bureau of Meteorology through The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research.

ALOA scientists have expertise in:

The resulting knowledge leads to an improved national capability for observing and understanding exchange processes in the land-atmosphere component of the Earth system.
  • atmospheric chemistry
  • environmental physics
  • terrestrial biogeochemistry
  • metrology and engineering
  • physical and mathematical sciences
  • microscale, mesoscale and synoptic meteorology.

They lead advances in measurement technology, operate world-class laboratories, and contribute to national and international programs such as the Global Carbon Project and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network flux program.

They measure and analyse atmospheric composition and chemistry; heat moisture and carbon fluxes from the land surface; and engage in remote sensing of the land surface and atmosphere with satellites and radar.

This information is combined with observations, assessments and predictions about the state of the ocean to underpin:

  • a better understanding of the Earth’s weather-climate system
  • advances in Bureau of Meteorology forecast systems
  • the development of next-generation observational platforms. 

The resulting knowledge leads to an improved national capability for observing and understanding exchange processes in the land-atmosphere component of the Earth system and estimating the atmospheric state for weather and climate forecasts.

It also contributes to ‘state of the atmosphere’ environment assessments that focus on the greenhouse gases, aerosol and reactive species. These assessments are needed to track changes in the climate and Earth system and monitor its response to mitigation policies (in Australia and the Asia Pacific region).

The ALOA capability also contributes to operational water availability analyses and assessment, and to atmospheric monitoring of fugitive emissions from geosequestration sites.

Strong links are maintained with federal, state and local governments and agencies, refining and energy industries, and international research organisations.


Greenhouse and ozone depleting gases:

  • measurement of atmospheric constituents including a range of greenhouse gases at trace to source levels
  • quantification of sources and sinks
  • firn and ice cores air sample extraction and interpretation
  • derivation of greenhouse gas trends
  • maintenance of Cape Grim air archive.

Reactive gases and aerosols:

  • atmospheric chemistry of reactive gases such as ozone and volatile organic compounds
  • aerosol chemistry, aerosol-cloud interaction and microphysics for long term trends analyses, process studies, and application in air quality, climate and cloud physics.

Continental scale biogeochemical cycles:

  • measuring and modelling the interactions between the land surface and the climate system, especially the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and water
  • curation and application of large datasets on meteorology, soils, and vegetation properties.

Micrometeorology: measuring and understanding of the drivers of transport of heat, water and carbon from the land surface to the atmosphere. This includes ecophysiology, remote sensing, data assimilation; as well as field and laboratory-based observations.

Satellite remote sensing and data assimilation: Processing and analysing satellite data for the measurement of the land surface properties such as soil moisture and vegetation as well as the state of the atmosphere. These data are assimilated into weather and climate forecast models such as ACCESS (Australia's 'next generation' climate model, the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator).


  • Wind tunnels
  • Air archive
  • Field observatories at Cape Grim, Tumbarumba, Gunn Point, Aspendale and the Otways
  • Leadership in the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network
  • National Association of Testing Authorities certified laboratories for Aerosol and Rainwater Chemistry and Aerosol Mass
  • GasLab, IceLab and VOC Lab for measurement of Greenhouse gases, Ozone-depleting gases and Reactive Gases
  • Data archiving and curation, storage, processing and visualisation

Research applications

CMAR expertise in Atmosphere and Land Observation and Assessment is applied to research projects undertaken by:

  • CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship
  • Light Metals Flagship
  • Water for a Healthy Country Flagship
  • CSIRO Climate and Atmosphere theme
  • Bureau of Meteorology.

Read more about CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.