Cyprus is taking part in a study that examines aerosols, clouds and trace gases, hoping to help scientists understand dust movement and air quality in the region.
With more dust coming to the island from the Sahara desert, the Cyprus Institute (CyI) is taking part in the EU-funded Pre-TECT programme, along with many other universities and institutes from around the world.
The Pre-TECT project is a worldwide scientific undertaking that aims at helping experts understand desert dust movement, essentially how it travels out of Africa.
The Cyprus Institute has made available its airstrip in Orounda, on the Troodos foothills, where unmanned drones observing the atmosphere can land and take off.
An assistant professor at the Cyprus Institute, Theodoros Christoudias, told daily Phileleftheros that during the month of April, scientists will collect data using various methods in order to reach useful conclusions on dust in the atmosphere.
For Cyprus, the issue is particularly interesting as the island is covered with dust for extended periods of time, well above health limits set by various health and monitoring organisations.
“The situation is made worse because we have a dry climate, high temperatures, and pollution from human activities,” Christoudias said.
A statement on the Cyprus Institute’s website said: “CyI will perform joined research activities on improving the accuracy of aerosol light absorption determinations”.
According to Christoudias, it is estimated that 500,000 people die prematurely due to high exposure to particles in the atmosphere.
A recent debate in Cyprus centred around common beliefs among some Cypriots who claimed there were unexplained incidents of air spraying in the atmosphere that pose a health risk on locals.
Although such claims are disputed by experts, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis promised last year that a study would examine the issue.
The Pre TECT is part of ACTRIS, the European Research Infrastructure for the observation of Aerosol, Clouds, and Trace gases. It is composed of observing stations, exploratory platforms, instruments calibration centres, and a data centre.