Letter from Prof. Dr. Johannes Staehelin

Prof. Dr. Johannes Staehelin


To Whom it May Concern:


During the week of June 8-10, 2010, fifty leading atmospheric scientists from around the world shared their research results at the first international symposium on "Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics at Mountain Sites", Interlocken,  Switzerland.  From the data presented, it became clear that high elevation mountain atmospheric observatories provide a unique window on long range transport of air pollution and dust, chemical reactions in the atmosphere, and crucial information on background concentrations of trace gases and aerosols influencing ozone concentrations, and those that drive climate change.  



It also became clear that the numbers of high mountain observatories covering the relatively compact area of Europe are barely adequate in number and location/spacing to monitor the atmosphere in that region.  For instance, the recent volcanic ash cloud from Iceland illuminated crucial gaps in the network capable of sampling within the actual ash cloud.



More importantly, presentations showed that the density of high altitude mountain observatories in, and downwind of Asia, is a factor of about 10 less than in Europe.  At present, only the high elevation observatories at Mt. Waliguan, China, and Mount Lulin, Taiwan bear the responsibility for monitoring the high elevation atmosphere from the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea, and for a human population well beyond 1 billion people.  One of the more valuable recent observations from the Lulin Observatory is that high concentrations of mercury are flowing east from Asia, the result of mercury rich coal burning that has been increasing at 4% per year for more than a decade.  A second monitoring site is needed to put bounds on the mercury flux into/over Japan and into the north Pacific Ocean.



The observatory on Mount Fuji, Japan, is ideally situated for monitoring long range outflow of gases and aerosols from northern-central Asia.  The location of Mount Fuji and the present research infrastructure at the top of the mountain, make this site an international and global treasure for atmospheric science measurements.  The mountain is already a Japanese national cultural treasure.



We, the undersigned scientists, strongly urge the government of Japan, its agencies, and its citizens to support and expand long-term atmospheric monitoring at the globally significant Mount Fuji Observatory.  This support would allow for solidifying the embryonic Asian-Pacific Mountain Atmospheric Observatory Network consisting of Mount Fuji; Waliguan; Lulin; Mauna Loa, Hawaii; Whistler, Canada;  and Mount Bachelor, Oregon.