Measurements of Clouds, Aerosols, Forest Fire Smoke, and Volcanic Ash from the Canadian Micro-pulse Lidar Network (MPLCAN)

Supervisor: Dr. Robert J. Sica

Project Description:

We have opportunities for several different projects using the measurements from the new Canadian network of lidars discussed below. These projects include evaluating the impact of aerosols (tiny particles like dust or smoke suspended in the air) on atmospheric gases such as ozone, the formation of fog and clouds, pollutant tracking, and effects and transport of wildfire smoke.


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 travelers. 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 have establish 4 nodes in the new Canadian Micro-Pulse Lidar Network (MPLCAN). The MPLs are being deployed to 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.