New Zealand's regional atmosphere

This programme will establish the composition of the atmosphere above New Zealand and Antarctica, and the chemical and dynamic processes that cause it to change.

The information is provided to government agencies and to international databases as part of New Zealand's contribution to the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols. Chemistry-climate modelling is used to bring the measurements and theory together, and will inform future mitigation and adaptation policies.

This programme will:

  • determine the baseline (global average) concentrations and trends of key greenhouse gases (GHGs), ozone, reactive and reservoir species (e.g., HCl, HNO3, CFCs) and their effect on solar radiation in the New Zealand region, including Antarctica and the SW Pacific, by maintaining our long-term time series measurements
  • understand the variability and processes driving changes in GHGs, and the relationship between past GHG concentrations and climate that can be derived from ice cores
  • contribute data to global network and satellite validation archives, providing coverage in a vital, but sparsely covered region of the globe (e.g., NDACC, WOUDC)
  • understand past and present composition through chemistry-climate modelling, in order to predict the future state of the atmosphere and the outcome of any atmospheric geo-engineering
  • help understand and quantify the relationship between atmospheric composition and climate change
  • contribute to our understanding of the past and current state of the Antarctic atmosphere, and how this may affect the future state of Antarctica and the Global climate.

Key science collaborations

  • NDACC partners for equipment and measurement co-ordination (the network includes nationally funded research organisations and universities around the world)
  • International agencies contributing to global (network) measurement initiatives (e.g., NOAA, CSIRO, NIES, NASA, ESA, BoM, MRI), and numerous universities
  • Collaborators in ice core recovery, analysis and support (GNS Science, VUW , ANSTO, CSIRO, SCRIPPS, Institute of Alpine and Antarctic Research - University of Colorado, Centre for Ice and Climate - University of Copenhagen, Antarctica NZ)
  • UK MetOffice, UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds, and Reading, for collaboration in chemistry climate modelling
  • IUP Institute of Environmental Physics – University of Heidelberg), BIRA Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy

The science in this programme:

  • aligns with science strategies for the following international programmes: International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP), International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC), Stratospheric Processes and their Role in Climate (SPARC), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC), GCOS Reference Upper Air Network (GRUAN), and Baseline Solar Radiation Network (BSRN) assist in meeting the responsibilities resulting from NZ's signing of the Montreal and Kyoto protocols, including support for MfE's reporting to the UNFCCC
  • contributes key data from the southern hemisphere to international collaborations and Climate-Composition Model validations.

Related research projects


These lenticular clouds were forming in the lee of Mt Erebus, Antarctica and propagating west over McMurdo Sound. We were camped out on 2m thick sea ice near the Erebus Glacier tongue conducting a study on sub-ice oceanographic processes and this skyline provided a spectacular backdrop. [Brett Grant]

Lauder Atmospheric Research Station - Dobston station

Lauder Atmospheric Research Station - Dobson station. Credit: Dave Hansford