Thinking about the contributions that we could make to society as an airline, we began cooperating in the "Atmospheric Observation" project in 1993, to investigate "the mechanisms of atmospheric variability that lead to global warming". Specifically, specialized observational equipment was installed into the Boeing 747 flying between Australia and Japan, which took samples of the air at an altitude of 10,000 meters, to measure the concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.). Even before this, we had taken part in atmospheric observations in domestic routes, but the initiative was our first effort of observation in scheduled international routes.
In addition, from 2005 we began utilizing new instruments for the atmospheric observations. Prior to this, on limited routes, we simply "brought back samples of the atmosphere in flasks", but in order to constantly measure carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, equipment has been installed on 5 aircrafts, to extend the scope and frequency of CO2 concentration measurements. In the future, as data accumulates over many years, we will be able to make a significant contribution to the study of CO2 circulation and global warming.
National Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Global Environmental Research Office of Atmospheric and Oceanic Monitoring
Mr. Toshinobu Machida
On July 14, 2009, we visited General Manager Toshinobu Machida of the Office of Atmospheric and Oceanic Monitoring at the National Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Global Environmental Research, to discuss his research into atmospheric observation.
Flights equipped with the two global warming gas measurement devices developed in 2005 had been used on 3,385 flights over 47 countries, to provide 5,850 pieces of data on vertical distributions up until March 2009. In this way, the concentration of greenhouse gases has been measured on a high frequency global scale, and this project to accumulate such data is the first in the world. As such, this valuable data on global warming and its mechanisms has brought a lot of attention from researchers around the world. In order to make this data even more useful for the study of global carbon cycles and atmospheric transference, a subcommittee that reports on a regular basis has been formed in order to further promote the use of this data, made up of organizations operating atmospheric observation projects and experts in atmospheric observation. In 2009, the "Data Usage Guidelines" was created, which started with observational data releases to researchers in Japan and overseas. These Data Usage Guidelines are now available from JAL's Atmospheric Observation home page. So far there have been 26 applications from researchers around the world.
CO2 is a stable compound which does not easily change chemically in the atmosphere. Focusing on this characteristic, we have gradually begun to understand things about atmospheric transportation (flow) which were not previously known. Also, the study will elucidate CO2 sink and source distribution by examining changes in density, horizontal and vertical distribution, and these results play an important role in the prediction of future climate change. In Japan, research teams are using five different carbon cycle models to study the mechanisms of CO2 emission and sink, and valuable data from JAL is at the forefront of these studies.
This graph shows CO2 concentration data measured over the sky at Narita Airport. The concentration increases from autumn to winter, and then declines from spring to summer. This shows the changes in concentration that effect the photosynthesis and plant respiration on the ground. In addition, the concentration is higher closer to the ground, confirming that the emissions of CO2 due to human activities are present around the surface of the earth.
(The red line shows the concentration at 1,000 m in the air, and the light blue line shows the concentration at 10,000 m.)
From this graph, we can see that the continuous examination of vertical concentration shows a greater degree of concentration at 1 km in the air than at 7 km in the air, suggesting that the effect of plant photosynthesis differs. We can also see that even at different heights, the concentration is increasing in the same way.
From an examination of past CO2 concentrations from core samples of Antarctic ice sheets found that there was an increase of 50 ppm over the 200 years from 1750, and an increase of 50 ppm over the following 30 years. This suggests that the rapid increase in CO2 concentration is due to the use of large amounts of fossil fuel based on human activities as the numbers of humans have increased.
Observational satellite "Ibuki" began collecting observational data of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. The data from "Ibuki" is extensive, but is rough compared to the accuracy of aircraft observational data, and the provision of JAL data helps to increase the accuracy of the satellite data.
These photos and graphs were provided by Toshinobu Machida, manager of the Office of Atmospheric and Oceanic Monitoring in the National Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Global Environmental Research.
National Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Global Environmental Research
Mr. Toshinobu Machida
Observations from "Constant CO2 Concentration Measurement Equipment" have provided 4 breakthrough advantages for researchers. First, "measure every day". In other words, take frequent data. Second, "measure CO2 concentration all over the world". Third, "examine the vertical distribution" of differences in CO2 at different heights from the surface of the earth to the sky. Finally, "take data that is spatially continuous".
The third item, "vertical distribution" is particularly important, and this information is very valuable for the study of CO2. However, this data doesn't exist over most of the world. Being able to examine this is a ground-breaking event for us as researchers. There are a number of different causes of global warming, but more than half of these are from the effects of CO2, making the examination of CO2 vitally important.
It is said that about half of the CO2 humans emit from burning fossil fuels is in the air. However, it is not known exactly where the remaining half goes. Some is absorbed into the sea, and some is absorbed into plants. But we don't know if this will continue to be absorbed in the future. It is expected that by examining this in more detail, and by better understanding the mechanisms of the earth's CO2 cycle, it will be easier to develop initiatives.
Aircraft Maintenance Company
Tokyo Maintenance Yard
Mr. Naoto Kondo/
Mr. Keita Goto
JAL Maintenance Dept.
Narita Maintenance Dept.
New atmospheric observation involves observations using two types of equipment, automatic air sampling equipment (ASE) and CO2 concentration continuous measurement equipment (CME). Commissioned by the National Institute for Environmental Studies in the autumn of 2003, Jamco Corporation, manufacture and maintain the interior and aircraft parts such as galleys and lavatories cooperated with JAL in the design and development of this equipment. JAL advised Jamco in the conditions and limitations of the equipment in terms of the design, from the perspective of operating an aircraft, and installation methods. Jamco then developed the equipment in accordance with the requirements of researchers, so that it would be able to obtain certification from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
The development of the ASE and CME began in September 2003, and approval for the first unit was received in November 2005, making it about 2 years to receive approval. The ASE was to be an improved version of equipment that was already installed into JAL aircraft for old atmospheric observations, but the CME, which was developed from scratch, was based on the original design of Mr. Toshinobu Machida of the National Institute for Environmental Studies, and it was difficult incorporating all of the requirements into the equipment. First, a prototype was created, but since there had been problems understanding the functions required by Professor Machida and the technical words used it was necessary to create a number of prototypes before it was finally suitable for its purposes. The equipment that was developed was then initially used as a prototype for performing environmental testing. During environmental testing, the equipment was subjected to vibrations, changes in temperature around the unit, and other extreme conditions that are not ordinarily encountered by aircraft in order to confirm that the equipment would not impact the safety of the aircraft.
EMI (electromagnetic interference) testing was very difficult from a technical perspective. Under these tests, the electromagnetic levels of the equipment needed to be reduced below a certain level, but this was difficult. The strength of the electromagnetic waves differs depending on the positioning of the wires in the equipment and the orientation of the device. Also, because the CME was equipped with a high pressure gas container, there were strict safety standards that needed clearance in order for it to be placed on board an aircraft. In this way, we managed to overcome several hurdles for the equipment to be installed in the aircraft. It was also difficult at the beginning of the development to align all of the requirements from all the researchers. It took more than a year for the requirements and demands of all the researchers to be lined up with the limitations and common sense of those of us involved in development and maintenance. However, through repeated communication and the building of a relationship of trust, we were able to align ourselves to develop a project a high level of performance.
* This statement was developed based on conversations with the above three developers.
For more details about "atmospheric observation", please see the JAL Foundation website.JAL Foundation website