Deep in the pristine Amazon jungle, Brazil’s newest skyscraper has a mission unlike any other: to save the world.
The white and orange metal frame called Amazon Tall Tower Observatory, or ATTO, is a bold new tool in the push to understand climate change and the vital role of rainforests.
At 325 metres, the ATTO is one metre higher than the Eiffel Tower and a good bit taller than London’s loftiest building, the Shard.
But instead of the typical city din of honking horns and engines, the loudest noise around the skinny structure is the chatter of cicadas and tropical birds.
Built in the Uatuma nature reserve, 350 kilometres from the city of Manaus and reachable only after hours of rough roads and a boat ride, the ATTO is seriously remote – and for the climate scientists that’s the point.
“Being far from towns and man’s influence ensures we can collect relatively pure data,” said Meinrat Andrae, director of the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, which is partnering with Brazilian research agency Inpa on the German-Brazilian funded project.
The Amazon is seen as a big piece of the global warming puzzle, since trees are a key weapon in safely capturing destructive carbon gasses.
And at 3000km wide, the Amazon is the greatest of all rainforests, known to many as the lungs of the world.
“Thanks to this tower we’ll be able to better understand the role of the Amazon, its effect on the local climate and also on the global climate,” said Antonio Ocimar Manzi, one of the Brazilian scientists.
The observatory is the tallest of its kind, beating a similar structure known as ZOTTO in Russia’s Siberia region, and ATTO is in a geographical area that has come to symbolise the whole world’s struggle.
Greenhouse gas emissions have rocketed since the second half of the 20th century, dangerously warming the globe, according to most scientists.
Healthy forests are key to absorb the gasses, but deforestation for lumber or farming, a major issue in the Amazon, is a major cause of the gasses, since the stored up CO2 is released from the dead tree into the atmosphere.
A worst case scenario predicted by some models foresees a vicious circle where global warming and drought kill so much of the Amazon that drought increases and the remains of the jungle became unsustainable, leading to even worse global warming.
The tower, which cost about $7.4 million and consists of 15,000 pieces, was inaugurated last week, but won’t start collecting data until later in the year.