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Valentia Observatory

Air and Rain Pollution Monitoring
The Observatory's air and precipitation pollution monitoring activities are part of the programme of an extensive European monitoring network, the Environmental Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), set up under the auspices of the UN ECE (Economic Commission for Europe). About 100 monitoring stations in 24 European countries take part in the programme. The co-ordinating role for the programme is filled by the EMEP Chemical Co-ordinating Centre at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) in Kjeller, Norway. The Observatory is also a Background Air Pollution Monitoring (BAPMON) station in the World Meteorological Organisation's network. Air and rain samples are taken on a daily basis and are analysed for different pollutants at the Observatory's laboratory and at the laboratory at Met Éireann's Headquarters in Dublin.

The EMEP programme measures trans-boundary rather than local pollution as pollutants, when emitted to the atmosphere, can be dispersed and carried over distances of thousands of kilometres by winds before deposition and damage occurs. For this reason it is essential that strict EMEP data quality objectives are met both for sampling and laboratory quality control so that laboratories in different countries are mutually able to compare analytical data.

 pH Monitoring of Rain Samples
The acidity of rain samples is determined, on a daily basis, at the Observatory, using an electrochemical sensor.

NO2 Monitoring
Air samples are taken on a daily basis to monitor the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The procedure involves placing a reagent, which is susceptible to NO2, in a special chemical analysis cabinet in the open air, where a pump is used to bubble air through it. The volume of air which passes through the reagent is measured using a gas meter. These samples are taken on a daily basis and are handled and stored in accordance with strictly defined procedures. The samples are analysed in batches of about 20.

Radio Activity Monitoring
Air and precipitation samples are collected at the Observatory and are forwarded to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) for radioactivity monitoring.
The dose rate of gamma radiation is continuously monitored and recorded at the Observatory using an Eberline ERM-2 monitor, and the values are reported each hour with the regular synoptic weather report. A procedure is also in place to report high levels if they occur between the hourly reports.

Rain samples are collected in a dedicated collector and are sent on a monthly basis to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna for tritium analysis.

 

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