Forest fire smoke and pollutant tracking are of great importance for the health and safety of Canadians. For example, in summer 2017, British Columbia experienced its worst forest fire season on record. Firefighting and evacuation efforts would be improved by an ability to track the smoke from the fires in real time. In Europe, during the April 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, the ash clouds covered much of Northern Europe and closed airports in 20 countries, affecting over 10 million travellers. Also important to Canada are the effects of a warming climate. One important effect is changes in the amount of ozone in the stratosphere, which is important for shielding the surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation. 

To improve understanding of the transport of particulates, as well as studying the impact of these particulates on interpreting ozone trends and their role in the formation of fog and clouds, we are establishing 4 new nodes which we call the Canadian Micro-Pulse Lidar Network (MPLCAN). The MPLs are being deployed, or are already deployed, in London, ON, Sherbrooke, Halifax, and in the High Arctic (Eureka, NU). A fifth MPL already established in Toronto has joined the network. These instruments are part of the global NASA Micro-pulse Lidar Network. The micro-pulse lidars (MPLs) will allow the structure of the atmosphere to be profiled in both height and time, for both the amount and type of particulates present, in addition to allowing liquid water to be discriminated from ice in developing clouds, precipitation, and fog.  We also measure layers of smoke particles in the upper troposphere and stratosphere (> 10 km altitude) associated with distant forest fires, injected into the stratosphere via a process called pyroconvection. The smoke particles can travel great distances, and affect both ozone concentration and temperature. With the number and severity of forest fires increasing, forest fires play a more complex role in global warming than anticipated, and we are trying to understand these effects.

We invite you to explore more about our project, our instruments, and get access to the data. Please reach out should you have any questions!

Are you a student looking to work with Micro-Pulse Lidar, or on a related topic?

MPLCAN has opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate research projects. Please contact us to learn more.