Canadian scientists plan to tackle the thinning of the ozone layer and the impact of certain chemical substances on the environment. A Canadian multidisciplinary team has formed to work with international partners to pool knowledge in the field of atmospheric science. One of their projects involves the launch of a satellite that will generate an enormous amount of information on the atmosphere and Earth’s ecosystems.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have joined forces to support the team’s research collaboration. It follows the 1999 announcement by John Manley, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for NSERC and the CSA, and Christine Stewart, former Minister of Environment Canada, regarding the development of SCISAT-1 — a Canadian science satellite dedicated to the environment.
Minister Manley noted the government’s commitment to supporting the work of multidisciplinary groups collaborating on environmental issues. "This initiative pools Canadian expertise together with that of other countries. By putting science and technology to work on ozone-layer research, Canadian researchers are also contributing to the development of expertise that will benefit us all".
The joint involvement of NSERC and the CSA will enable 12 Canadian researchers from eight universities to increase our understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere and the chemical processes in the ozone layer. The team, led by Peter Bernath, a professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Waterloo received a five-year award of $1.6 million from NSERC and $500,000 from the CSA.
NSERC and CSA funding was arranged through NSERC’s Collaborative Research Opportunities (CRO) grants program which facilitates the participation of teams of Canadian researchers in major national and international research. Since its launch in February 2000, this program has supported 15 other projects, involving 77 researchers from 24 Canadian universities.
This investment will allow university scientists to exploit the data collected by the satellite’s state-of-the art instruments. The researchers expect to be able to identify factors responsible for the thinning of the ozone layer over the Arctic where the extent of the damage is still not well known.
The project will also extend to the detection of trace gases and stratospheric clouds as well as the effects of aerosols. Taken together, the data will offer a clearer understanding of the impact of atmospheric pollution linked to human activity. The data generated from SCISAT-1, which will be launched in 2002, is also expected to result in the creation of new mathematical models and algorithms to better explain atmospheric change.
NSERC President Tom Brzustowski welcomed the collaboration with the CSA saying, "Thanks to this initiative, Canada is forging new competencies in both environmental and space research. The project will create an opportunity for Canadian researchers to expand linkages with numerous international partners in these fields."
CSA President Mac Evans said, "The Canadian Space Agency’s SCISAT-1 will be the first all-Canadian science satellite since 1971. It is a major project in the Canadian Space Program that brings together Canadian government, industry and scientists. This grant from NSERC and CSA will ensure that researchers are able to take advantage of the satellite’s data in their continuing study of ozone depletion."
This project complements other initiatives by the Government of Canada to study the earth’s ozone layer, such as the MANTRA (Middle Atmosphere Nitrogen TRend Assessment) research balloon which was launched recently in Saskatchewan.
NSERC’s Newsbureau
Yasmine El Jamai, Public Affairs Officer
(613) 947-5273
Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
Caroline LavallÈe, Senior Communications Officer
(450) 926-4370
Environment Canada
Tom McElroy, Senior Research Scientist
(416) 739-4630
University of Waterloo
Peter Bernath, Professor, Department of Chemistry
(519) 888-4814