Cape Grim Air Archive

By February 4th, 2011

The Air Archive is an irreplaceable collection of air samples from Cape Grim, northwest Tasmania. It is like a library or museum of air that provides valuable information about greenhouse and ozone depleting gases.

Every three months, researchers have filled stainless steel flasks with about 1 000 litres of pristine air, which is then stored in the Cape Grim Air Archive at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Aspendale, Victoria.

The Cape Grim Air Archive was initiated by Dr Paul Fraser in 1978, knowing that one day scientists might be interested in measuring gases that at the time were not being (or could not be) measured.

Without this unique collection of air, we would not have historical information about some ozone depletion chemicals and their replacements. From a small sample of the archive’s ‘vintage air’, Dr Fraser and colleagues can determine the rate that some chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have decreased, how others’ growth rate has slowed down, and how the atmospheric concentrations of CFC replacement chemicals have grown.