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Atmospheric Observation

Contributing to elucidating the mechanism of global warming.

Atmospheric Observations by AirlinerCONTRAIL PROJECT

To better understand the mechanism of atmospheric change, which said to be the cause of global warming, JAL Foundation has been participating in atmospheric observation research using commercial aircraft.
Various issues affecting the global environment have been pointed out such as global warming, deterioration of the ozone layer, acid rain, deforestation and desertification. This atmospheric observation project focuses on global warming, which has captured ever growing social interest in recent years. The primary aim of the project is to extensively and frequently monitor the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO₂), which has been closely associated with human activities since the industrial revolution, and to collect basic data to help clarify the mechanism of atmospheric change and the circulation of greenhouse gases.

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History of Atmospheric Observation Project

ASE (Air Sampling Equipment)
CME (Continuous Automatic CO₂ Measuring Equipment)

Atmospheric air was collected for analysis in Japan by commercial aircraft for the first time in 1979, when Tohoku University began monthly observations of greenhouse gases collected with a manually-operated pump on flights between Sendai and Fukuoka with the cooperation of Toa Domestic Airlines (currently Japan Airlines). In 1984, they conducted observations and analysis of atmospheric air collected on flights between Tokyo and Sydney and between Tokyo and Anchorage with the cooperation of Japan Airlines.

With the establishment of Nikko Foundation (in Japanese, currently JAL Foundation) in 1990, the Meteorological Research Institute, Japan Airlines and JAL Foundation jointly developed ASE (Automatic Air Sampling Equipment) with the support of the Ministry of Transportation (currently the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism), installed them on classic Boeing 747 aircraft, and since 1993 have conducted observations and analysis of atmospheric air collected on commercial flights between Japan and Australia on a twice-monthly basis.

In 2005, when Japan Airlines retired its classic Boeing 747 aircraft, it became necessary to build a new observation framework. In the meantime, the conventional ASE was improved and the new CME (Continuous Automatic CO₂ Measuring Equipment) was developed at the request of researchers. Through efforts by many parties, the enhanced ASE and the new CME were installed on two Boeing 747-400 aircraft (bothdecommissioned at present) and three Boeing 777-200 aircraft (currently increased to ten aircraft). This new observation framework was named the CONTRAIL Project(*). Together with data and know-how accumulated so far, it has enabled the collection of more advanced and reliable data.

(*) Comprehensive Observation Network for Trace gases by Airliner

CONTRAIL PROJECT2Activities in 2019

Twenty-six years have passed since the launch of the CONTRAIL Project in 1993. There is no other atmospheric observation project in the world using aircraft that has been conducted for such a long time, and the project and research findings have been highly acclaimed domestically and internationally.
To obtain advice on the project from leading experts in the industry, academia and government, the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Commercial Flights was formed in 2007, in which JAL Foundation serves as the Secretariat.

Total Legs Since Start of ObservationsObservation results

◎ASE (Air Sampling Equipment)

CO₂ CO CH₄ N₂O H₂ SF₆ Gathering and Measurement of isotope
ASE (Automatic Air Sampling Equipment)NRT-SHA NRT-BKK NRT-SIN
MSE (Manual Air Sampling Equipment) NRT-CDG
Accumulated total:397

CY05
1 legs
CY06
20 legs
CY07
18 legs
CY08
23 legs
CY09
25 legs
CY10
20 legs
CY11
21 legs
CY12
31 legs
CY13
35 legs
CY14
30 legs
CY15
34 legs
CY16
24 legs
CY17
23 legs
CY18
43 legs
CY19
9 legs

◎CME (Continuous Automatic CO₂ Measuring Equipment)

Accumulated total 22,944 legs

CY05
59 legs
CY06
707 legs
CY07
1,547 legs
CY08
1,069 legs
CY09
1,260 legs
CY10
1,145 legs
CY11
1,275 legs
CY12
1,372 legs
CY13
1,744 legs
CY14
1,885 legs
CY15
2,464 legs
CY16
2,327 legs
CY17
1,915 legs
CY18
2,017 legs
CY19
2,158 legs

PROJECT HISTORY1991–2019

  1. 1991.09.
    The Environmental Observation and Monitoring Project was inaugurated.
  2. 1992.01.
    Test flight for analysis of appropriate extraction method in order to compare composition of outside and air conditioned air.
  3. 1993.02.
    Completed the development and installation of ASE (Automatic Air Sampling Equipment).
  4. 1993.04.
    Operated test flight. Passed Aviation Authority Examination and obtained approval to install ASE (Automatic Air Sampling Equipment) on scheduled passenger flights.
  5. 1993.04.
    Installed observation device on first flight - Boeing 747 (JA8127) (Cairns - Narita).
  6. 1994.07.
    1994 Refitting of (JA8131) Boeing 747 Extended observation route - now Sydney to Narita.
  7. 1994.09.
    Project expanded - samples now taken twice a month.
  8. 1995.03.
    Japan Airlines received the Fuji Television Award for commencing measurement of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the upper troposphere as part of its company projects aiming to be environmentally aware.
  9. 1995.11.
    The Environmental Observation and Monitoring Project received the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Environmental Technology Award, under the auspices of Nihon Keizai Shimbun, for remarkable results achieved in investigation, research and preventative measure application towards environmental issues.
  10. 1996.06.
    The Japan Airlines Research and Development Department received a Certificate of Commendation from the Director of the Meteorological Agency for contributions to the development of installable meteorological testing equipment and the meteorological field.
  11. 1997.07.
    Japan Airlines received the Flight International Company Award.
  12. 1998.01.
    ASE (Automatic Air Sampling Equipment) became the topic of the NHK quiz show, 'Questions of the Japanese'.
  13. 1998.04.
    Recorded 100th observation result.
  14. 1998.08.
    Publicly exhibited ASE (Automatic Air Sampling Equipment) for the first time and an introductory panel for the Environmental Observation and Monitoring Project held at the 'Strange Skies' exhibition at Haneda Airport.
  15. 1999.11.
    Dr. Hidekazu Matsueda, Meteorological Research Institute, received the Meteorological Society of Japan's Horiuchi Award.
  16. 2000.05.
    Recorded 150th observation result.
  17. 2000.06.
    Japan Airlines and JAL Foundation received a Certificate of Commendation from the Minister for Transport.
  18. 2001.08.
    A panel presenting the Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project and ASE were put on display at the 'Wanpaku Ecology Exhibition' at Haneda Airport.
  19. 2001.10.
    The Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project was introduced at 'The Sixth Carbon Dioxide International Conference' held in Sendai.
  20. 2001.11.
    To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Japan Airlines, the Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project presentation panel and ASE were put on display at the Federation of Economic Organizations.
  21. 2002.04.
    Changed observation route from Brisbane to Narita.
  22. 2002.06.
    Recorded 200th observation result.
  23. 2002.08.
    An article featuring the Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project appeared in Asahi Shimbun.
  24. 2002.10.
    The Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project was featured on TBS TV.
  25. 2003.06.
    An article featuring the Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project appeared in Nihon Keizai Shimbun.
  26. 2003.09.
    Official start of development operations through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s ‘Match Fund’.
  27. 2003.11.
    The 1st meeting of the Promotion Committee on Atmospheric Composition Observation through Aircraft.
  28. 2003.12.
    The 11th meeting of the Study Committee on Global Environment Observation.
  29. 2004.02.
    An article featuring the Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project appeared in Mainichi Shimbun.
  30. 2004.03.
    The New Atmospheric Observation Program appeared in an article of Sankei Shimbun.
  31. 2004.05.
    The New Atmospheric Observation Program was presented on Fuji TV's Super News.
  32. 2004.08.
    A presentation of the New Atmospheric Observation Program was broadcasted on internet television Channel J.
  33. 2004.09.
    The 250th observation was recorded.
  34. 2005.01.
    A presentation of the New Atmospheric Observation Program was distributed by Kyodo News Service, and carried by several newspapers.
  35. 2005.10.
    An article about the New Atmospheric Observation Program reported by Nikkan Kougyo Shimbun appears in various newspapers.
  36. 2005.11.
    NHK Television Tokyo Network presents a full report on the New Atmospheric Observation Program.Boeing 747 test observation flights begin. An article about the New Atmospheric Observation Program appears in the news column of the English science magazine ‘Nature’.
  37. 2005.12.
    National Institute of Environmental Studies announces the success of carbon dioxide observations using commercial aircraft, including up-to-date data from the maiden test flight at a press conference.The related news and articles broadcasted by NHK, and published by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Nikkan Kougyo Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun.
  38. 2006.02.
    Modification of Boeing 747-400 aircraft was completed and test observations began.
  39. 2006.03.
    Modification of first Boeing 777-200 aircraft was completed.
  40. 2006.09.
    40 Sep. 2006 Based on the results of Boeing 777 observations, the 7th Committee on Promoting the Observation to Investigate Atmospheric Composition by Scheduled Flights (final meeting) was formed.
  41. 2006.11.
    Modification of No. 2 and No. 3 Boeing 777's was completed, and it became possible to install the measuring equipment on the first aircraft. The New Atmospheric Observation Project was presented on NHK's 'Good morning Japan'.
  42. 2007.02.
    The 1st Subcommittee of Data Application for Atmospheric Observation by Airline was established.
  43. 2007.03.
    A committee senior to the above-mentioned one, the 1st meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights (main committee), was formed. Its purpose is to promote the effective use of observation data and ensure maintenance, management and development of the observation platform.
  44. 2007.06.
    JAMCO Corporation received a Certificate of Commendation from the Chairman of Japan Aeronautical Engineers' Association for the development of the new environmental observation and monitoring's equipment.
  45. 2007.12.
    Professor Nakazawa of Tohoku University, Chairman of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights was presented the Shimazu Award from Shimazu Science and Technology Foundation.
  46. 2008.02.
    Dr. Sawa of Meteorological Research Institute received a Certificate of Commendation from the Director of the Meteorological Research Institute for the development of observation equipment and establishment of analysis methods for tne new observation program.
  47. 2008.03.
    The 2nd meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights was held.
  48. 2008.09.
    A paper on the CONTRAIL Project appears in 'J. Atmos. Oceanic. Technol.' and 'J. Geophys. Res.' Dr. Machida of National Institute of Environmental Studies received the NIES Award for public relations about environmental issues and contribution to the development of the institute's activities.
  49. 2009.03.
    The 3rd meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights was held.
  50. 2009.04.
    A patent application made in October 2007 for ASE (Automatic Air Sampling Equipment) and CME (Continuous CO2 Measuring Equipment) was published in Japanese Published Unexamined Patent Applications.
  51. 2009.11.
    Dr. Takakiyo Nakazawa Professor of Tohoku University and Chairman of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights was awarded the Purple Ribbon Medal for his long-term achievements in enhancing the understanding of the mechanism of global warming caused by greenhouse gases.
  52. 2010.02.
    The number of atmospheric observations under the CONTRAIL Project has exceeded 5,000.
  53. 2010.03.
    The 4th meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights was held.
  54. 2011.02.
    An article featuring the Environmental and Observation Monitoring Project, appeared in Mainichi Shimbun. (Carbon dioxide circulates from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere).
  55. 2011.03.
    On TBS TV “Weekend Weather”, the observation system of greenhouse gases by JAL is reported to be continued, using Boeing 777-200 aircraft due to the retirement of the Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
  56. 2011.06.
    The 5th meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights was held JAL Foundation invited Dr. Carl A.M. Brenninkmeijer from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry 'who is leading the CARIBIC Project in Europe' to this committee meeting as the main guest speaker.
  57. 2012.03.
    The 1st meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / the Second Stage
  58. 2012.07.
    A Press Release was made jointly by Japan Airlines, JAL Foundation, National Institute for Environmental Studies, and Meteorological Research Institute regarding the launch of JAL Air-Observation Jet with Special [CONTRAIL Project] Logo. (Registration number JA707J) TV Tokyo’s “Morning Satellite” reported the Project outline and the debut of this aircraft. Mainichi Shimbun also covered the press release and the Project.
  59. 2012.11.
    Nara Women’s University Faculty of Science held an open lecture titled “Talk on the frontline of the global warming research”. Dr. Toshinobu MACHIDA, head of Office for Atmospheric and Oceanic Monitoring, Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, also leader of the CONTRAIL Project, and Professor Sachiko HAYASHIDA of Nara Women’s University introduced the activities of the Project and research achievements based on data obtained through the Project in easy to understand terms for the general public.
  60. 2012.12.
    The CONTRAIL Project and its research outcomes were featured in the B.S. Japan “Chikyu-Asuteku – episode 90: Amazing technologies advance in observing greenhouse gases”.
  61. 2013.01.
    Asahi Shimbun featured the CONTRAIL Project quoting that its monitoring data contributes to partly revealing the circulation mechanism of carbon dioxide gases.
  62. 2013.03.
    The 2nd meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / the Second Stage was held.
  63. 2013.06.
    The CONTRAIL Project team received the Environment Minister’s Award, the highest award in the 40th Environmental Awards.
  64. 2013.07.
    The CONTRAIL Project and its research outcomes were featured in NHK BS1 “The Future of the Spaceship Earth”.
  65. 2014.01.
    The CONTRAIL Project team received the 19th Japan-S. Korea Environmental Award.
  66. 2014.03.
    The 3rd meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / The Second Stage was held.
  67. 2015.01.
    A report meeting of global environment research collaboration was held.
  68. 2015.03.
    The 4th meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / The Second Stage was held.
  69. 2015.04.
    The project was awarded the 24th Fuji Sankei Group Earth Environment Prize.
  70. 2016.03.
    The 5th meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / The Second Stage was held.
  71. 2017.04.
    The 1st meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / The Third Stage was held.
  72. 2017.12.
    The project was award Minister of Environment's Commendation for Global Warming Prevention Activity in International Contribution Category.
  73. 2018.03.
    The 2nd meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / The Third Stage was held.
  74. 2019.03.
    The 3rd meeting of the Committee on Promoting the Earth Environment Observation by Scheduled Flights / The Third Stage was held.
  75. 2019.03.
    The CONTRAIL Project team received the Ministery of Environment Prize at Japan Open Innovation Award.
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