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In 1997, the first Aerospan station was installed in the remote Strzelecki desert of South Australia. Further stations were established over subsequent years at targeted locations. For many stations, the data record now exceeds 10 years, allowing generation of aerosol climatologies for both the tropical north and the arid zone.

The Aerospan sun photometry station at Birdsville, Australia

The role of aerosol in moderating climate change is well recognised, both through the scattering and absorption of incoming solar radiation by aerosol (the so-called direct effect) and via the modification of cloud droplet size and cloud lifetime (the indirect effect). In the past, uncertainty as to the magnitude of these effects stemmed largely from the lack of a comprehensive knowledge of regional and seasonal characteristics of aerosol across the globe.

Sun photometer networks, such as the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) operated by NASA GSFC, were established in the 1990s to address that need. At that time, little attention had been focused on the characterisation of Australian continental aerosol, even though Australia is a globally significant source of biomass burning aerosol, contributing about 10 per cent of global emissions, largely from seasonal savanna burning in the tropical north.

In addition, the Australian deserts are well known as sources of wind-blown dust, and constitute the largest dust source in the Southern Hemisphere. Although distant from most major aerosol sources in the Northern Hemisphere, it is clear that Australia is the recipient of long-range transport of aerosol from external sources, for example biomass burning in Southeast Asia.

The CSIRO network, formerly known as AGSNet (Australian Ground Station Network), was established to measure continental aerosol, to promote the validation of satellite aerosol retrievals, and to provide data to facilitate atmospheric correction of satellite images. The primary instrument at each station is the Cimel automatic sun-tracking photometer which provides information on the amount, size and type of aerosol present. These instruments are compatible with AERONET, and our affiliation with them imposes standardisation of calibration and processing and provides a public portal to the aerosol data.

Aerospan station locations in the Australian network
Station From To Operator
Tinga Tingana 1997 2012 CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Lake Argyle 1999 Current CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Jabiru 2000 Current CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Canberra 2003 Current CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Birdsville 2005 Current CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Brisbane 2010 Current University of Queensland
Lucinda 2009 2010 CSIRO Land & Water
Lake Lefroy 2012 Current CSIRO Mineral Resources
Fowlers Gap 2013 Current CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Darwin 2004 2008 CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Darwin 2008 2014 Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM)
Climate Research Facility (US DoE)

Map of Australia with locations of aerospan stations marked by red points
Map of Australia showing the Aerospan station locations in the Australian network.

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