Ecole Polytechnique: Inauguration of SIRTA, a new Atmospheric Research Observatory

SIRTA (Site instrumental de recherche par télédétection), an infrastructure supported by the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL*) and the result of collaboration between CNRS, École Polytechnique and Région Ile-de-France, was inaugurated on Friday 17 September 2021.

This atmospheric research observatory is a national experimental site dedicated to research on climate and the environment. It is one of the few sites in Europe offering the instrumentation, facilities and hosting capacity needed to study atmospheric physical and chemical processes, from the surface to the top of the troposphere, via the boundary layer, to better understand climate feedbacks on regional and decadal scales, to evaluate atmospheric models (climate, weather, chemistry-transport) and to validate space-based observations.

With the aim of supporting scientific research in the field of climatology, SIRTA’s new equipment will make it possible to better understand, anticipate and predict heat waves and pollution peaks, as well as to find innovative solutions for renewable electricity production. They will also strengthen the construction of the European research infrastructure ACTRIS (aerosol, clouds and trace gases research infrastructure), of which SIRTA is a major component.

SIRTA brings together research and experimental teaching carried out by laboratories in Région Ile-de-France in the fields of instrumentation and atmospheric measurements. It is a reference tool at the European and international levels and represents a database of several dozen atmospheric variables recorded over nearly 20 years.

Founded in 1999 at IPSL, and formerly housed within the Dynamic Meteorology Laboratory (LMD*), SIRTA now extends over a 2.5 hectares area located to the north of the lake on the École Polytechnique campus. The new infrastructure includes a dedicated and emblematic 600 m² observatory building with a 450 m² instrumental roof.

This new development has made it possible to protect a natural area of around 40 hectares around the observatory, which is essential for the quality and representativeness of the measurements. The new infrastructure provides a permanent setting for the observatory’s historical instrumentation and allows the installation of new high-tech measuring instruments (50 m mast, lidar, wind turbines, solar panels, etc.).

Accessible to all, the site will also provide information to the general public through visits, conferences and debates.

This project has received the support of Société du Grand Paris, EDF R&D, University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) and the École Polytechnique Foundation, thanks to the mobilisation of the alumni of the class of 1977, who organised a specific fund-raising campaign to finance this new observatory, and of Daniel Rigny (X 1989), a major donor to the École Polytechnique Foundation.

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