Since there was no flight planned for today and tomorrow, I took the opportunity to visit the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO), a field site in the middle of the jungle 150 km NE of Manaus. This station is operated jointly by our Institute and the Brazilian National Amazon Research Institute (INPA), together with a large group of Brazilian and German partners. The centerpiece of the site is going to be a 325-m tall tower, from which measurements of trace gases, aerosols, and micrometeorology will be made. The project was initiated in 2008, but since planning and construction of the tall tower proceeded quite slowly, we decided early on to build a “Not-quite-so-tall Tower” (80 m high), and began measurements there in 2011. I wanted to see how the construction of the tall tower was progressing, and visit our resident science team.
The trip to the site takes about 5-6 hours, about 1-2 hours on paved roads, an hour on a dirt road, over an hour on a speed boat on the Rio Uatumã, and finally as much as an hour on a rough dirt road through the jungle, with some waiting times in between to make the connections. The dirt road is always a work in progress. In the rainy season, the lower part dissolves into a long lake of mud, and becomes unpassable even for jeeps. When we drove up from "Porto ATTO", our landing on the Rio Uatumã, to the observation station, we had to make serveral stops to get out of the way of road construction. All in all, I left Manaus at about 06:20 and made it to ATTO just for lunch.
The afternoon was spent looking at the construction site for the tall tower and looking at the three container labs that make up the present measurement site. At the moment, the “tall tower” is about 1 m tall, but all the foundations have been cast as well as the anchors where the cables will be attached that hold the tower. These anchors consist of concrete columns that go 6 m into the ground. All the steel for the construction is lying around the tower base in the forest, and we have been told that the actual tower construction will start this Thursday!
The container labs now are quite impressive. One lab houses the aerosol measurements. The air for these measurements is piped down from a dedicated 80-m mast that is placed directly next to the lab container, to avoid particle losses. A second container houses a variety of trace gas measurements, including ozone and nitrogen oxides. The third container is dedicated to high-precision measurements of CO2, CO, and CH4.
The day ended with a nice dinner (beans, rice, fish, meat, and salad) and discussions with the local science team over a few beers. Sleeping accommodations are in a jungle lodge, surrounded by mosquito netting, where everybody lies in comfortable hammocks.