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Auchencorth Moss Atmospheric Observatory (AMo)

Auchencorth Moss Atmospheric Observatory (AMo), is a long term monitoring research infrastructure sited on an ombrotrophic peatland. It is used primarily to carry out research including long term studies on atmospheric composition, surface-atmosphere exchange of pollutants and carbon catchments. As a result a the large number of parameters are routinely measured at the site it is part of a wide range of monitoring networks.

Scientific importance

Peatland sites are globally important carbon stores as well as sensitive habitats often vulnerable to long-term environmental change. The Auchencorth Moss site is part of an extensive transitional lowland raised bog in Scotland. The landscape of Auchencorth Moss was first used in 1994 to study fluxes of methane (CH4) gas. In 1995, it was established as a measurement site to study fluxes of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and ammonia (NH3) gases over a peatland ecosystem due to its suitability for micrometeorological studies and distance from emission sources. The AMo site has since expanded to become Scotland’s largest air quality monitoring station and is one of two rural air quality supersites (established 2006) for the UK under the UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Pollution (CLRTAP) European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP). EMEP aims to provide long-term information on the deposition and concentration of atmospheric pollutants, as well as quantifying the significance of long-range transport of air pollutants across country boundaries.

AMo provides a platform for many research projects and measurement campaigns, from NH3 flux measurements through to research using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). UKCEH scientists operate and support state-of-the-art techniques for measuring meteorology, fluxes of reactive gases, particles, greenhouse gases and carbon exchange.

Equipment at Auchencorth Moss atmospheric monitoring site

Auchencorth Moss field site equipment.

About the site

The Auchencorth Moss catchment (3.35 km2) forms part of a low-lying, ombrotrophic peatland of about 10 km2. It is located approximately 18km south of Edinburgh in Scotland. The vegetation consists of a patchy mix of grasses and sedges covering a mainly Sphagnum base layer on a typical peatland hummock/hollow microtopography. Common species include Deschampsia flexuosa, Eriophorum vaginatum and Juncus effusus, with a greater occurrence of shrubs such as Calluna vulgaris, Erica tetralix and Vaccinium myrtillus in the ungrazed SSSI. The site drains via the Black Burn, north-east into the North Esk, aided by several overgrown drainage ditches which form a herring-bone pattern across the catchment. The site receives annual precipitation of ~1200mm. Water table depth ranges from below -55cm to 4.5cm above the peat surface, with a mean of approximately -12.5cm. Annual nitrogen deposition is approximately 8kg N ha-1 yr-1.

Auchencorth Moss routinely reports over 300 chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere, with all data publically and freely available on the UK-Air (DEFRA), Scottish Air Quality database, Natural Environment Research Council Data Repository for Atmospheric Science and Earth Observation (CEDA) and EBAS (ebas.nilu.no).   A full list of measurements can be found (http://www.auchencorth.ceh.ac.uk/measurements). Outputs from the site include over 115 ISI research papers and many government reports.

Explore the Site

Take a virtual 360 degree tour of the site. 


As well as state-of-the-art equipment onsite or available from CEH (including TOF-AMS, CIMS, PTRMS, QCL and CRDS), the site has a cabin equipped with bench space, inlets and air conditioning. It is designed for housing short-term experiments and visiting scientists. As a result new collaborative opportunities are available to use the station as an atmospheric observatory facility.

Auchencorth Moss

Auchencorth Moss.

Current site research

AMo is integrated into UK air quality monitoring networks, international collaborations and embedded in international research and European Research Infrastructure Consortia (ERICs) including:

  • One of UKCEH’s Carbon Catchments sites
  • World Meteorological Organisation – Global Atmospheric Watch (WMO-GAW) regional station, aims to provide high quality data on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and meteorological parameters, to allow for better understanding of natural and anthropogenic changes over time, and improve the understanding of interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere.
  • ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) Ecosystem measurement site, aims to quantify and improve the understanding of the carbon cycle and greenhouse gas budgets and perturbations.
  • ACTRIS (Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases) In-situ site, aims to produce open access high-quality observations of aerosols, clouds and trace gases to address environmental and societal challenges, such as air pollution, sustainability, human and environmental health, and climate change.
  • eLTER (Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe) which focuses on long-term trends in environmental and ecological changes
  • The UK Northern supersite under the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP)
  • Auchencorth is integrated in to most  UK air quality networks including:
    • UK Eutrophying and Acidifying Pollutant (UKEAP) networks:
    • Heavy Metal Network
    • UK Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN)
    • Automatic Hydrocarbon Monitoring Network
    • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
    • Particle Number and Concentration Network including size distribution of particulate matter, black carbon, Elemental/Organic carbon (ECOC)
    • Toxic Organic Micro Particles (TOMPS)

For further details on all parameters measured at Auchencorth Moss, please refer to the website at www.auchencorth.ceh.ac.uk.

Work with us

To discuss opportunities to develop future research and collaborations with CEH using the Auchencorth Moss site, contact: Dr Marsailidh Twigg