From the Cosmos to the Geosphere: the quest of four European Deep Underground Laboratories originally built for Astroparticle Physics to understand Global Environmental Change

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ino Agrafioti, CNRS, National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3) and Astroparticle Physics European Consortium (APPEC), Paris Cedex 16, France
A number of deep underground laboratories exist around the world, all originally developed to advance our understanding of the Universe. They were built to host ‘low-background’ Astroparticle Physics experiments, needing to be shielded from interference produced by cosmic radiation. These unique infrastructures show great diversity in terms of depth, size, and geological and environmental characteristics.

Over the last decade, the four European deep underground laboratories – LSM in France, LSC in Spain, LNGS in Italy and Boulby in the UK – supported by their funding agencies, have been making great efforts to get integrated into a single distributed research infrastructure. At the same time, they have been asking “how can our facilities, primarily built for Astroparticle Physics, be used to tackle global challenges?”. Astroparticle Physicists have wide experience in forming long-term large international collaborations, developing innovative technologies, building unique facilities and organising data handling, reduction, storage and analysis: all of these were put to the disposal of scientists from other disciplines. As a result, a number of very interesting multidisciplinary projects have been hosted in the labs with excellent scientific results: geologists, climatologists, environmental scientists and biologists from academia and public authorities have all used these deep underground environments. Even more recently, the four European labs have decided to go one step further: in order to treat global challenges, global cooperation is necessary, so they are trying to unite the global deep underground science community around these multidisciplinary synergies.

The objective of this talk is to present the bottom-up policy adopted by these world-leading European research infrastructures related to global environmental change, including some of the most interesting scientific results received so far (e.g. muon tide detector for continuous, passive monitoring of offshore CO2 deep storage sites, radionuclide dating of lake sediments to understand climate change, detectors of large flood events to alert civil protection authorities, etc). It is believed that these efforts could greatly contribute to the FutureEarth Initiative.