The Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) is an international network of atmospheric observing stations and associated laboratory, calibration and atmospheric modelling infrastructure, that is supported by a consortium of multinational institutions and organizations (USA: NASA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Australia: CSIRO, Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Europe: University of Bristol, Empa, University of Urbino, NILU; Asia: Kyunpook National University, China Meteorological Administration, NIES). The scientific objectives of the AGAGE program are focussed on furthering our understanding of the chemical drivers of climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion.
What is now referred to as AGAGE started life in 1978 as the Atmospheric Lifetime Experiment (ALE) that was setup to measure and understand the major chemicals responsible for stratospheric ozone depletion – namely the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chlorinated solvents and nitrous oxide. Several years later, the next phase of the program, called the Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (GAGE), began with improved gas chromatographic instrumentation and methane, a significant greenhouse gas, was added to the trace gas species that were being measured. Around 1993 the AGAGE program began, with improved instrumentation and calibration strategies, as well as further trace gases added, namely chloroform, hydrogen and carbon monoxide. During the late 1990s and into the mid-2000s, new gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) systems were developed, first at the University of Bristol and then at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Empa, that could measure considerably more trace gases, in particular the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), halons, chlorocarbons and bromocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride. The AGAGE program is able to measure globally, at high frequency and at multiple sites, all the important trace gases involved in the Montreal Protocol and all the important non-carbon-dioxide (non-CO2) trace gases that are covered by the Kyoto Protocol/Paris Agreement, and periodically assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Carbon dioxide is now also measured at several sites as part of the AGAGE program.
The ALE/GAGE/AGAGE stations are coastal or mountain sites around the world chosen primarily to provide accurate measurements of trace gases with lifetimes that are long compared to global atmospheric circulation times. Cape Grim is one of the core AGAGE stations that has been making atmospheric measurements since the ALE/GAGE/AGAGE program began in 1978, and is the only AGAGE station in the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere, and one of only two AGAGE stations in the Southern Hemisphere.
For more information, please see the MIT AGAGE webpage
A paper describing in much more detail the program, what is measured and the science derived from these measurements can be found here:
Prinn et al., Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 985-1018, 2018, https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-10-985-2018