Adventure pilot starts new environmental expedition

Portorož, 24 March - Slovenian adventure pilot Matevž Lenarčič embarked on a new scientific environmental expedition on Friday, as part of which he will collect data on black carbon and Saharan dust levels in the atmosphere above the Mediterranean and the Alps.

Adventure pilot Matevž Lenarčič in his ultralight aircraft.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Adventure pilot Matevž Lenarčič.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

He took off in his ultralight aircraft from Portorož just after 10 AM and is expected to reach Malta in around five hours. The rest of the first stage, which will take him to Cyprus and then Lisbon, will depend on the weather conditions.

The entire four-stage expedition, aimed at exploring the impact of black carbon and Saharan dust on climate change in central Europe and glacial melting, will cover a total distance of over 20,000 kilometres and will also take him from Paris to Bucharest and across the entire Alpine ridge.

Since the expedition will depend greatly on weather conditions and the movement of air masses, the timeline will be adapted as the expedition proceeds, but Lenarčič told the STA before starting out that he expects the mission to be concluded in around two months.

Lenarčič is using the same ultralight plane he used on his solo round-the-world flight in 2016, but it is now equipped with additional instruments, including a CO2 recorder.

According to head of the research part of the mission Griša Močnik, the results of the expedition are to be presented in a scientific study by the end of the year.

The expedition is related to warnings by climate experts that Alpine glaciers, an important source of water and energy for central Europe, are in serious danger due to black carbon and Saharan dust deposition on ice and snow in the Alps.

While black carbon and Saharan sand have the opposite effect when in the atmosphere, they both speed up glacial melting when they end on the surface of the snow and turn it darker.

The results of Lenarčič's past environmental expeditions show that the state of the atmosphere is even worse than different emission models indicate.

Lenarčič already has a set of further expeditions lined up, with India and the Himalayas planned for 2018, Russia and China for 2019, and Antarctica and the Arctic in 2020 and 2021.

© STA, 2017