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Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
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Clear Administration
Head: Prof. Franco Prodi


Atmospheric Chemistry-Climate Interaction
Head: Dr. Sandro Fuzzi

The research activity of the Program "Atmospheric Chemistry-Climate Interaction" has the overall objective to study the physical and chemical processes which involve atmospheric aerosols and clouds, and to evaluate the effects of these processes on the direct and indirect aerosol forcing of climate. This overall objective is organised into four main activities:

  • field and laboratory studies on the chemical composition of aerosols derived from a variety of natural and anthropogenic sources, with particular emphasis on the organic fraction, which is presently largely unknown;
  • laboratory experiment and modelling exercises on the relationship between aerosol chemical composition and its ability to serve as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and to modify cloud microphysical and radiative properties;
  • field and modelling studies of anthropogenic processes (industrial emissions, biomass burning, Saharan dust) which modify the radiative properties of aerosols and clouds over land and sea;
  • development of parameterisations of aerosol and cloud processes in mesoscale and global models.
Summary of activities
Laboratory activities: new and improved techniques for aerosol and cloud samples characterisation were developed and implemented for several previous field campaigns (MINATROC, ACE Asia). Tests were carried out on the thermodynamic properties of organic and inorganic aerosol components which influence the CCN activity: surface tension, hygroscopicity and solubility (in collaboration with University of Lund and Caltech).
Field activities: two major field campaigns took place in 2002. The first was carried out at the University of Ireland Research Station of Mace Head to study formation of ultrafine particles in a clean coastal environment. The second major field campaign was carried out in Amazonia in the period between the dry season (when biomass burning occurs) and the wet seasons, to study the influence of biomass burning aerosols on cloud albedo and development of precipitation. Other field activity were carried out at the ISAC field stations of Monte Cimone and S. Pietro Capofiume within other projects (QUEST, EMEP).
Modelling Activities: the in-house developed cloud parcel model with explicit microphysics was further improved to take into account the complex and size-segregated chemical composition of the aerosol, the organic soluble compounds in particular, and the variation of surface tension as a function of the content of soluble organic carbon. Tests were then carried out of the sensitivity of CCN number concentration to aerosol chemical composition and updraft velocity in clouds. New parameterisations were also obtained for below-cloud scavenging of gases.

Head: Dr. Paolo Mandrioli

Keywords: aerobiology; bioaerosol; biological sources; biodeterioration; atmospheric transport.

The activity performed by the research Group is focused on the study of the presence of bioaerosol in the atmosphere. This study implies a deep knowledge of the features of the sources from which it is generated: terrestrial and aquatic, natural and anthropogenic. Bioaerosol is formed by fragments of a micro- or macro- biological structure, substances originated from biological activity, viable or non-viable micro-organisms able or unable to reproduce. Airborne biological particles include micro-organisms, which are generally unicellular and able to reproduce in the substratum in which they are deposited or directly in the atmosphere. Among the micro-organisms present in the atmosphere, bacteria are often the highest in concentration, despite their high death rate due to environmental factors producing stress of various kind, one of the major being dehydration stress. Fungal spores rank second in importance and, unlike non-sporing bacteria and yeast cells, are able to survive extreme environmental conditions. Other spore types, as those of ferns and mosses, and algal cells originating mostly from water surfaces should also be included among the micro-organisms present in the atmosphere, even if in lower concentration than bacteria and fungal spores. The first step needed to work out aerobiological models is the precise description of the location, seasonality, timing and release flow of the particles produced. One of the greatest problems in aerobiology lies in the precise assessment of the airborne particles concentration. The difficulty varies with the kind of particle to be recorded and strongly depends on the method and system utilised. Many aspects in the monitoring of indoor and outdoor bioaerosol still have to be thoroughly investigated. More functional and accurate methods, morphological, chemical, microbiological and immunological analyses are actual requirements in the fields of atmosphere microbiology, allergenic aerosol, phytopathology and biodeterioration. The Group studies air quality both outdoors and indoors, and is currently involved in the following researches:

Medium and long distance bioaerosol transport

Some particles of biological origin (pollen, spores and bacteria) are used as natural tracers of air masses, since it is possible to know exactly the location of their sources and the production and emission characteristics. Recently, this method has been used at the Mount Cimone field station (2100 m asl) to trace the source of atmospheric ozone, considering, together with the gas measurements, the sources and concentration of bioaerosol. The method also makes it possible to test models of dispersion in the atmosphere concerning wide sources and on a local scale. The experience of the Group comes from past researches both on long distance transport and vertical transport up to 8000 m.

Aerobiological Monitoring
Since 1985, ISAC coordinates and manages, in collaboration with the Italian Association of Aerobiology (AIA), the Italian Aeroallergen Network (RIMA). The Network is composed of 80 monitoring stations operating continuously over the Italian territory and providing information on the concentration of 55 types of pollen and 19 types of fungal spores. The measurements made by the Network are unique and have gained an increasing interest in the fields of Air Quality, Bioindicators, Allergies, Phytopathogenic organisms. The importance of the Network is also increasing with recent international events concerning bioterrorism: the organization of the Network makes it possible to also effect measurements of other types of particles (bacteria, spores, atmospheric particulate matter > 1µm), more specifically aimed at surveillance and alarm. Every week, the Network edits a pollen bulletin for doctors and patients, forecasting the atmospheric concentration of the main allergenic pollen types throughout Italy. The Network is part of European Aeroallergen Network (EAN) and European Pollen Information (EPI). Its experience has also been used in European Projects (ASTHMA and SPRING).

Biodeterioration and Cultural Heritage

The Group also works in the field of indoor air quality, particularly in the field of conservation of Cultural Heritage. The Group participates in projects with Istituto Beni Culturali (IBC), Regione Emilia-Romagna, and with "Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione Ambientale" (ARPAT) and works on the microclimates of museum environments (Project Bologna 2000), on the biodeterioration and the evaluation of the impact of bioaerosol on materials forming works of art (Progetto Battistero, Firenze). A project is presently in progress of a museums network, aimed at supporting museums in the management of exposition rooms and archives (Progetto MUSA). The purpose is the creation of a network internet-based linking museums to a Centre where information and alert messages - necessary for a correct management of works of art, as the Italian law specifies - are acquired, processed and returned.

ISAC-CNR also hosts the editorial office of "Aerobiologia" - International Journal of Aerobiology by Kluwer Academic Publishers.

The Group has organised international Courses of Advanced Aerobiology, in collaboration with Université de Montréal, Universidad de Cordoba, University of Illinois, North Carolina State University, Harvard University. The aim of the courses was to teach students about atmospheric factors that influence the movement of aerobiota and provide them with "hands-on" experience in field measurements using "state-of-the-art" aerobiological sampling devices and meteorological instruments.

Conservation of Cultural Heritage
Head: Dr. Cristina Sabbioni

The activity performed by the research group working on Conservation of Cultural Heritage is focused on the development of the atmospheric sciences and climate to the protection, conservation and valorisation of Cultural Heritage.

Atmosphere- Material Interactions

There is a general agreement that atmospheric pollution is the main agent responsible for the damage encountered on monuments and historical buildings in urban areas. Soiling phenomenon appears to be accelerating and this can be easily observed in the continual blackening and repetitive restoration of monuments and historical buildings. During 2002 the research activity was mainly focused on the role of black patinas in stone decay and on the relationship between elemental carbon particle atmospheric contents and monument blackening rates developed in the context of the European Project CARAMEL. The experimental work performed during 2002 included measurements of soot particles in aerosols and in patinas including the two different fractions organic and elemental carbon in selected target sites (i.e. Milan, Florence, Rome, and Venice in Italy, Paris in France, London in UK and Seville in Spain). A new methodology for carbon analysis in patinas was developed and applied in all samples analysed. The preliminary results achieved give evidence that elemental carbon (EC) is a major component of the European urban aerosol phase and heavily (if not solely in some situations) related to traffic activities showing intra-site important variability in relation with meteorological conditions (wind, urban boundary layer height) and time of the day (traffic peaks). EC as soot tracer is also the dominant component in black crusts, but its abundance also displays an important site to site variability and may reach 50% or more of the total non carbonate carbon. In Sevilla, organic tracers show the overwhelming contribution of diesel bus exhausts for soiling, as shown by the parallel analyses of crusts, environmental aerosols and bus exhausts.
This project aims to contribute to the understanding of black crusts growth in multi-pollutant influenced atmosphere, by focus on the key role of carbon particles as a vector of pollutant transport, deposition and transformation when embedded in patinas.

In the course of centuries, materials used in artworks loose elasticity and reversibility, so that any departure from the original conditions is dangerous and has a cumulative effect that, in the long run, becomes visible. The recent church heating, mainly operated at broken times, constitutes a tremendous challenge for conservation of this extremely important cultural heritage. Despite an extensive literature, deterioration mechanisms are not fully known.
For protecting artworks in churches, a novel heating system has been developed which is able to contain heat just in the area where people stay. The EC project FRIENDLY HEATING concerns the study of the internal microclimate and the response of wooden artefacts to the temperature and humidity forcing, the advection and diffusion of the indoor air masses, the transport and deposition of airborne pollutants, the simulation of the convective cells over the benches, the human benefit under different conditions, the construction and set-up of the heating prototype.
Furthermore within EC VIDRIO project a study focused on the improvement of methods and technological systems in order to control and reduce damage of stained glass protected with glazing and not protected, exposed to climatic influences, air pollution and biodeterioration was developed. The environmental impact on the stained glass in target sites (i.e. Sainte Chapelle, Paris and Cathedral of Cologne) was particularly studied as a consequence of the daily and seasonal cycles of the climatic and other environmental variables (e.g. visitors, heating and air-conditioning systems, infiltration of polluted air from outside). In particular the local climate (air temperature, dew point, relative and specific humidity, ventilation, radiation) and the internal microclimate concerning the stained glass under study (glass temperature, spread above the dew point, condensation on the panel and time of wetness, ventilation) was monitored with automatic devices and special intensive field surveys. The final goal is to give a final judgment on the goodness of the double glazing as a solution for a better conservation of stained glass from all the point of view (physical chemical and biological), to provide a methodology for the best management of these buildings and identify the thresholds of danger to preserve stained glass.


The conservation of artistic and cultural assets must take account of biological factors also i nvolved. The recent activity was mostly focused in the set up of system for the assessment and remote control of indoor microclimate to implement sustainable preventative conservation strategies toward biodeterioration. Statistical data on the appropriateness of current environmental control systems were collected. This will provide strategic tool for cultural heritage management that can be applied broadly to a diversity of museums, galleries, libraries and archives.

Head: Dr. Giordano Cevolani

Study of meteoroid-atmosphere interaction processes from meteor radar observations, microanalysis in laboratory of samples of interplanetary matter (micrometeorites/meteorites) and other theoretical-modellistic approaches. Development and improvement of radio techniques to monitor parameters of the middle atmosphere and to detect natural meteoroids and space debris.

Specific themes of basic research:

  • observations of new populations of meteoroids near Earth and their interaction with the atmosphere;
  • determination of flux and activity of meteor showers in anomalous conditions (outburst and storm), even in relation to their impact probability with orbiting structures;
  • NEO (Near-Earth Objects)- meteor showers for the detection and inventory of potentially dangerous objects for Earth, by comparing the orbital parameters of meteor complexes with the possible parental bodies (asteroids and comets);
  • Investigation of microstructural (dimensional-morphological-chemical) analysis) and magnetic properties of meteorites by using advanced technologies ( SEM/TEM electronic microscopes and IR spectrometers).

Specific themes of applied research:

  • development of theoretical-modellistic algoritms for the definition and comparison of fluxes of different dimensional scale particles of natural (meteoroids) and artificial (space debris) origin decaying into the terrestrial atmosphere;
  • radar-interferometric techniques in the VHF-UHF bands to measure the content of minor constituents of the middle atmosphere by monitoring the interplanetary matter. In particular, we want to obtain: (i) vertical profiles and (ii) diurnal, seasonal and annual variations of mesospheric ozone content at middle latitudes by radar interferometric measurements.


  • procedures for data acquisition for meteor radar facilities;
  • active systems for the remote control of the space debris environment;
  • scientific support to a treaty on the exploration and use of outer space.

National programmes

  • Project of a radar network for monitoring space debris, Space Debris ASI Project;
  • Integrated project of optical-radar systems to investigate NEOs (Near-Earth Objects) (Spaceguard Foundation);

International programmes

  • Impact of meteor phenomena on the detection of cosmic rays, EUSO Project;
  • Interplanetary Bodies and Atmospheric Phenomena, EFN Project.