The Earth's atmosphere is central to human society. It is closely related to the human daily life, such as weather and air quality, and it is also critical to the long-term survival and sustainable development of humankind, such as global climate changes. It is therefore important to observe the atmospheric and earth system. While the integrated observational system for observing atmospheric and earth system, and its further integration with model development has made major advancements in recent years in Europe and United States, the progress has been slow in China, especially over highly industrialized regions like the Central and Eastern China. The degree of integration among different processes, and across different disciplines is insufficient and the integration between observations and modeling is also lack.

Here we turn to the University of Helsinki in Finland for collaboration and joint research efforts. While a truly integrated observational station is rare and new in China, the University of Helsinki has been very successful in building and maintaining the SMEAR station over the past several decades over a forest site. The integrated observations at the SMEAR station have provided the first-hand dataset for understanding many key processes in the atmosphere, especially processes related to the formation of new particles in the atmosphere. Supported by the SMEAR station, the University of Helsinki has become a recognized global leader in the atmospheric sciences, especially for science discovery and technology innovation.

What is more, the SMEAR station in Finland is located in the high latitude area with a nature background, which is in sharp contrast with the Eastern China that is highly urbanized and industrialized with a monsoon climate. The contrast between these two regions helps us to better understand how anthropogenic activities may affect regional climate. As weather and climate systems in East Asia are closely related and influenced by weather and climate in the high latitudes, developing and strengthening collaboration with people in high-latitude regions is also critical for improving understanding of the weather and climate processes in East Asia.

We started our collaboration with the University of Helsinki in 2009. It began with the academic exchange and short-term visit, and then we collaborated in building a SMEAR-type station in Nanjing in 2012 (the SORPES station), and eventually the Joint International research laboratory of Atmospheric and Earth System Sciences was officially established in the end of 2015 by the Ministry of Education in China. The main objectives of the joint laboratory include:

  1. Developing an integrated observational platform that includes multiple processes in the atmospheric and Earth system sciences.

  2. Better integration of observations and modeling efforts to improve existing parameterizations and to develop new ones for key processes in regional and global models. The process-level understanding based on two distinct but closely related regions in Objective 1 would lay the solid foundation for the integration with modeling efforts.

  3. Building a center for attracting top talents and for training next-generation scholars in the atmospheric and Earth System sciences.

Building on existing strength of research teams in Nanjing University and the University of Helsinki, the two sides have identified the following areas as the focus of the joint laboratory: