European Space Agency Turns to Fanshawe Teacher
November 17, 2008
CANDAC's research facilities are based at the Environment Canada Eureka weather station, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. Photo courtesy Dr. Pierre Fogal, PEARL Site Manager.
Argall, who moved to Canada from Australia in 1994, has been teaching at Fanshawe for one year following 15 years as a scientific researcher at Western. With a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Adelaide in Australia, Argall teaches air quality and meteorology in the Environmental Technology program and physics in the Biotechnology program at Fanshawe.
His connection to the Arctic is through his position as mentor for the wind profile radar, part of a collection of instruments operated by the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change (CANDAC). The radar measures wind speed and direction from the ground up to 12 to 15 kilometres.
"I have an instrument up there that's worth three quarters of a million dollars but I've never actually seen it," Argall said. "There is no plan for me to go because only people that need to be there get to go there." Although he has no plans to go north, he said it is possible one of his students might make it up there as part of a future co-op program.
Argall said his Arctic research has a dual purpose. "One is to see what's happening now but the other is to look for change over time, so we'll be looking to do both of those things."
His connection to space comes about through his wind research in the Arctic and wind research in Southern Ontario using the same kind of instruments.
The Ontario-Quebec VHF Windprofiler Radar Network is a collaborative effort between York University, the University of Western Ontario and McGill University. The work is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Innovation Trust. Argall said several stations are already built and operating and others are being built. "I'm involved in this, but I'm not a major player. I worked on it for a few years at Western and still maintain an interest in it."
With all his wind experience, Argall has been approved by the European Space Agency to be a member of their science team. He will use data from Ontario-Quebec VHF Windprofiler Radar Network and wind data from the Arctic to validate wind measurements taken from space.
"They are about to launch a very sophisticated satellite which uses a laser beam to measure global wind fields. When they launch it," Argall said, "they will need ground measurements to make sure their satellite is measuring the right thing." He said he will use measurements from radars in Southern Ontario and the Arctic but the European Space Agency is most interested in the Arctic radar because of the way satellites fly.
"They tend to fly over the radar more in the Arctic regions so they are particularly interested in that one." He said his job with the space agency will probably require annual trips to Europe to attend science meetings.
The European Space Agency expects to launch the three-year ADM-Aeolus (Atmospheric Dynamics Mission) in 2009. It will be the first satellite to directly observe wind profiles from space. The goal is to improve the qualify of weather forecasts and advance understanding of atmospheric dynamics and climate processes.