International training school on ABC: Day 1

I was at the international training school on Atmospheric brown clouds (ABC) held in Kathmandu yesterday. The international school held every two years, by internationally prominent atmospheric scientists, provide a theoretical background and an overview of current knowledge on various aspects of atmospheric brown clouds and climate change. The fourth of its kind, this school is led by Dr. Mark Lawrence (MPIC-Germany), Dr. Maheswar Rupakheti (AIT-UNEP RRC.AP, Thailand), and Dr. Arnico Panday (U. Virginia, USA).

Participants are diverse ranging from Associate professor, PhD students, research scholars, graduate students and aspiring graduate students representing as equally a diverse institutional base – University of GOA, University of Tokyo, Chulalongkorn University, Asian Institute of Technology, Kathmandu University, Tribhuvan University, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) Nepal among others.

The training opened with an introductory lecture on Atmospheric Aerosol particles (Aerosols) followed by an engaging lecture on Atmospheric Chemistry whereupon I have learned that the science in me has been reduced to a vestigial nature. The technical garboil at the training required much jostling from my end to reaccustom myself to the science (Physics, Chemistry).

The second half, wedged in the “Consultation on Approaches for achieving Co-benefits from Black Carbon Emission Reductions” a separate meeting jointly organised by ICIMOD, Ministry of Environment Nepal, UNEP and the US EPA. Primarily meant for experts, policy makers, scientists, distinguished guests from Asia, participants at the training school were also asked to sit in and listen to the deliberations at the consultation meeting.

The meeting began with Mr. Surendra Shrestha asking the guests to observe a minute’s silence in memory of  lives lost in the recent Japan Earthquake/Tsunami.

Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan’s keynote address that followed, was perhaps the most engaging address I have seen to date. Short and yet lively, his address showcased some of his research work over a period of 40 years in academia and research.  He shared about the INDOEX experiment and years of research that indicate the need to incorporate black carbon/elemental carbon as a key contributor to climate change. He also highlighted that reducing black carbon could be mitigation measure that developing countries could take upon themselves and request/receive technology transfer from developed countries.

Some quotes during his address which piqued my mind with some in context.

Think Globally, Assess Regionally, Act Locally

“60% of the total BC emissions is amenable to control”

Responding to a question from the audience, Dr. Ramanathan did mention that

“NGOs are driving the climate change movement, making climate change a political and emotional issue but the underlying problem is scientific in nature.”

“Diesel particulate filters available in Europe remove 99% of the PM matter including elemental carbon.”

“Start with the Biomass, don’t wait for the diesel filter.”

was his response to Dr.  NS Jodha’s query about technology transfers from the North never making it to the South because of being expensive, and market driven .

The informational session, primed at informing the guests on the possibility of achieving co-benefits from Black Carbon Emission reductions had a range of experts from IIT Mumbai, ICIMOD, Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo, WHO, Indian Agriculture Research InstituteTERI speak about current estimates for black carbon by sector, its impacts on agriculture, health and even glaciers in a moderated session led by Dr. Iyngararasan Mylvakanam, UNEP.

A separate evening lecture by the professor during dinner was scheduled for participants to the training school. Dr. Ramanathan was more candid in his talk in the evening. His use of metaphors for the Atmospheric Brown cloud – (smoke under a blanket), to explain the 3 km thick atmospheric blanket, made it much easier to comprehend the science behind the problem.

Introspections from day 1

I am fairly versed in Geek Speak and can circumvent the interlocutions of a computer nerd, but it has been ages since I have heard a well versed professor throw chemical equations at me. RSS, data interoperatability,OAUTH, AJAX seemed so much more familiar after the long hiatus jostling chemical reactions. After a while, the content seemed fairly recognisable and each new chemical formula, terminology (hydrostatic equilibrium) I recognised provided a welcome relief and renewed confidence.

I look forward to learning about the principles of operation of a variety of the state-of-the-art instruments for atmospheric aerosols, traces gases, radiation and meteorological measurements through lectures that follow in the coming days and possibly blog about it if NEA is kind enough to send some electricity my way 🙂