Worldwide support for Niwa role

Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) beams from Lauder probe the night sky. These Lidar systems...
Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) beams from Lauder probe the night sky. These Lidar systems measure ozone and small particles in the upper atmosphere. Photo by Niwa.
International pressure is building for a U-turn on proposed changes to the atmospheric monitoring programme at a Lauder research station, which involve the axing of three jobs.

The plans for a "shift in focus" at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) Lauder station and potential job cuts were revealed a week ago, and have generated a barrage of international concern.

Scientists worldwide have lobbied Minister of Science and Innovation Steven Joyce and Minister for the Environment Amy Adams.

The scientists and international agencies involved in atmosphere research have pointed out Lauder's strategic location, its global value, and aired concerns that job cuts at the station could jeopardise the quality of the data collected.

An email sent to the ministers last week, signed by 200 international scientists, voiced "extreme concern" about proposed changes at the facility.

"Measurements carried out and interpreted by Lauder scientists have been key in developing the understanding of stratospheric ozone depletion and associated increases in the ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer, cataracts and damage to crops and ecosystems," the scientists said in the letter.

"As such, these research findings have been indispensable for international scientific assessments of ozone depletion presented to the Parties to the Montreal Protocol for at least two decades."

Continuing to measure and interpret future behaviour of ozone was vital to ensure the ozone hole and depletion of the southern hemisphere "healed" in coming decades, they said.

In response to questions from the Otago Daily Times last week, a spokeswoman for Mr Joyce said the international agencies and scientists were "misinformed" about the impact of the changes.

"The Lauder research station will continue to collect the measurements for New Zealand's international and national priorities.

"None of its major international commitments will be in any way affected by the outcome of this review," she said on behalf of Mr Joyce.

Niwa had invested $500,000 in new equipment at Lauder during the past two years, another $100,000 this year, and remained committed to "this part" of its research programme.

It was important to respect the ability of Niwa's board and management to make funding and management decisions.

A decision is expected soon on the Lauder redundancies.

World support
Organisations and individuals to air concerns to Minister for Science and Innovation Steven Joyce and Minister for the Environment Amy Adams include:
NDACC: Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change - international organisation composed of more than 70 research stations which monitor changes in the stratosphere and assess the impact of changes on global climate.
GRUAN: Global Climate Observing System Reference Upper Air Network - global upper-air observing stations: Signed by 12 scientists, including co-chairman Prof Peter Thorne, United States.
World Meteorological Organisation's Global Atmosphere Watch scientific advisory group for ozone chairman: Dr Johannes Staehelin, Switzerland.
SOLAS: Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study (international community of oceanographers and atmospheric scientists focusing on interaction between oceans, atmosphere and climate).
International Ozone CommissionSPARC (Stratospheric Processes and the Role in Climate):- core project of the World Climate Research Programme.
EMPA: Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology - senior scientist and group leader Dr Stefan Reimann.
Japan Society of Atmospheric ChemistryLetter co-signed by 200 scientists from the United States, Germany, France, Australia, Belgium, Japan, Spain, New Zealand, Italy, England, Greece, Canada, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Serbia, China and Russia.


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