Cosmic Ray Division joins Virtual Alpine Observatory

The polar and high mountain regions of the earth are warming at nearly twice the rate of Europe and two-and-a-half times the global average. This can have profound consequences on earth’s weather, including, for example, the supply of fresh water from melting snowcaps in places like Armenia. In April 2012, the Virtual Alpine Observatory (VAO), a networked collaboration of international research organizations operating high-altitude observatories and research stations, was established to study this situation. Cross-border cooperation has made it possible to study problems related to the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere to determine environmental impact on human health and wellbeing. All these spheres are interlinked. Changes in one can affect the others. Participating are research institutes and observatories in Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Georgia, Italy, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland. 

On October 26, 2023, Dr. Johannes Knapp, a scientist at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) research center in Germany and member of the international board of directors of the Aragats Space Environment Center (ASEC) of the Yerevan Physics Institute’s Cosmic Ray Division (CRD), accepted CRD’s accession certificate from the chair of the VAO, Prof. Dr. Michael Krautblatter. The CRD is now a VAO associate member. The VAO is a subproject of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). A statement from the VAO indicates “that environmental and climate challenges are transboundary interdependent by nature, and therefore require a holistic approach to address them.”

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CRD will participate in VAO’s interdisciplinary study of Alpine warming. Measurements of various parameters at different locations will be collected, put into formats according to international standards and shared. Moreover, analysis and visualization tools will be developed to access this data at VAO’s high performance computing centers. CRD operates two high altitude research stations on Mt. Aragats: Aragats station at 3,200 m (10,500 ft) and Nor Ambert at 2,000 m (6,560 ft). A large number of meteorological, geophysical and atmospheric processes are monitored, including electrical events in the atmosphere. Data from these measurements are put on the internet in near real time together with analytical tools.

Dr. Knapp is a professor at DESY, where he specializes in astroparticle physics. He is chairman of the Aragats Space Environment Center (ASEC) Board of Directors and is a frequent visitor to Armenia.

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