Analyzing Lake Geneva from the air: A second wind for elemo

Nov 20, 2012 by Lionel Pousaz
A MIR Submersible in 2011. Credit: EPFL/Jean-Marc Blache

One year after the MIR submersibles dove into the depths of Lake Geneva, the elemo program is delivering its first scientific results. And with the support of Ferring Pharmaceuticals, the operation will be extended with a campaign to make observations above the lake surface from a sensor-packed ultralight aircraft. The same experiments are planned above Lake Baikal in Russia.

In summer 2011, two Russian submersibles explored the depths of as part of the scientific observation program elemo. Preliminary results are just now coming in. At the same time, EPFL and Ferring Pharmaceuticals, sponsor of the elemo program, are announcing a new installment of the exploration. This time, the scientists will make their observations from the air. Starting in late November, they'll fly aboard ultralight planes to measure phenomena occurring at the interface between the air and water. have given their authorization for the flights. This scientific mission will be repeated over in Russia.

On board the submersibles: preliminary results

The elemo program has already delivered preliminary results that have been extremely useful for assessing the health of the lake and for better protecting its ecosytem. Research is currently being done on pollution, the flow dynamics of currents, the bacterial fauna in the lake and the geology of the .

Several scientific teams have already begun to publish research results; articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals should start to appear in the coming months and years. Data gathered from the MIR submersibles has enabled scientists to demonstrate a correlation between the presence of certain bacteria and . They were also able to precisely measure how micropollutants – primarily pesticides or pharmaceuticals – spread throughout Lake Geneva from station outlets.

Elemo takes to the air

On board their two ultralights, scientists from EPFL, Eawag and CEA (France) will study phenomena occurring near the surface of the lake, as well as the influence of air currents on the lake. Test flights will take place above the Lausanne and Nyon regions between November 26 and December 5, to test and calibrate the sensors. The official research campaign will begin in May 2013.

The scientists will use a "hyper-spectral" camera, a tool that allows them to decompose the light spectrum into hundreds of separate colors. From this, they can obtain an global image of certain elements close to the surface of the lake, such as bacteria, sediments, and dissolved gases. This kind of analysis is already done by satellites, but technical limitations (they can only separate a few parts of the light spectrum) and distance make many kinds of observations impossible.

At the same spot where the camera is pointed, a catamaran will simultaneously take water samples. By comparing the data taken from the air and from the water, the scientists hope to be able to develop new and better methods for analyzing the currents and the overall health of the lake.

For Michel Pettigrew, President of the Executive Board and Chief Operating Officer de Ferring Pharmaceuticals, a continuation of the company's support of the program was self-evident. "Ferring has a keen interest in science and the environment and is especially committed to the Lake Geneva region. As a member of the local community, we are particularly proud to support the elemo project, which brings the best international scientific teams together with the objective of advancing our understanding the dynamics of Lake Geneva."

As in the 2011 exploratory campaign on board the MIR submersibles, this extension of the elemo program will also continue in Russia, above the waters of Lake Baïkal – the world's deepest lake – under the name "Project Léman-Baïkal." By comparing results obtained in Switzerland and Russia, the scientists will be able to consolidate their knowledge and the methods they use to study environments.

Explore further: Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

More information:

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mini-submarines to gauge Lake Geneva pollution

Jun 14, 2011

Two mini-submarines that have filmed the wreckage of the doomed luxury cruise liner Titanic will dive into Lake Geneva to gauge its pollution levels, Swiss researchers said Tuesday.

Water pollution continues at famous Russian lake

Mar 24, 2008

Despite widespread concerns about preserving the world’s largest body of fresh water, researchers report that pollution is continuing in Russia’s fabled Lake Baikal. The study is scheduled for the April ...

Scanners reveal a wreck on the bottom of Lake Geneva

Aug 24, 2011

The Russian submersibles involved in EPFL’s elemo project have discovered a new wreck on the bottom of the lake. Underwater archaeology is benefiting from scanners developed for scientific research.

Earth from space: Central Europe

Apr 01, 2011

( -- This Envisat image features an almost cloud-free look at a large portion of Europe. The Alps, with its white peaks, stand out in contrast against the vast areas still covered in brownish winter ...

Recommended for you

Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

17 hours ago

New Zealand's pastoral landscapes are some of the loveliest in the world, but they also contain a hidden threat. Many of the country's pasture soils have become enriched in cadmium. Grasses take up this toxic heavy metal, ...

Oil drilling possible 'trigger' for deadly Italy quakes

21 hours ago

Italy's Emilia-Romagna region on Tuesday suspended new drilling as it published a report that warned that hydrocarbon exploitation may have acted as a "trigger" in twin earthquakes that killed 26 people in ...

Snow is largely a no-show for Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

21 hours ago

On March 1, 65 mushers and their teams of dogs left Anchorage, Alaska, on a quest to win the Iditarod—a race covering 1,000 miles of mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, tundra and coastline. According ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

21 hours ago

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Study shows less snowpack will harm ecosystem

22 hours ago

( —A new study by CAS Professor of Biology Pamela Templer shows that milder winters can have a negative impact both on trees and on the water quality of nearby aquatic ecosystems, far into the warm growing season.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

( —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.