Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 25, 2016 - 10:30 am

New research project aims to improve weather reporting in Nunavut

Environment Canada collaborates with NAC on new aerosol detection station

SARAH ROGERS
This new weather observation site in Iqaluit is a laser-based aerosol/water vapour Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which allows scientists to create a more precise map the natural environment. (PHOTO COURTESY OF EC)
This new weather observation site in Iqaluit is a laser-based aerosol/water vapour Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which allows scientists to create a more precise map the natural environment. (PHOTO COURTESY OF EC)
Gideonie Joamie posted this photo on social media of an unidentified green light Nov. 17. The light is actually one of three lights—although the only one visible to the eye— that’s emitted into the atmosphere to detect aerosols, or small particles in the atmosphere, from the ground up to an altitude of 15 kilometres. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. JOAMIE)
Gideonie Joamie posted this photo on social media of an unidentified green light Nov. 17. The light is actually one of three lights—although the only one visible to the eye— that’s emitted into the atmosphere to detect aerosols, or small particles in the atmosphere, from the ground up to an altitude of 15 kilometres. (PHOTO COURTESY OF G. JOAMIE)

It’s not extraterrestrial life communicating with earth, and it’s not a new type of aurora borealis.

If you’ve noticed a green light stretching up and across the sky over Iqaluit, follow it down. It leads to the city’s Environment Canada compound, where the federal agency has launched a new research project to hone in on weather conditions around Nunavut’s capital.

“Several years ago, there were MLAs quite concerned about weather reporting in Iqaluit,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, senior manager at Nunavut Arctic College’s Nunavut Research Institute.

“Environment Canada heard them and over the years, they were able to bring up equipment and put together this research project.”

The new observation site, separate from Environment Canada’s regular weather observation, will be used by the agency to gather data with equipment like weather radar and sensors to measure temperature, precipitation and winds.

The green light Iqalungmiut have seen is one of three lights—the only one visible to the eye—that’s emitted into the atmosphere to detect aerosols, or small particles in the atmosphere, from the ground up to an altitude of 15 kilometres.

The technology is laser-based, aerosol/water vapour Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which allows scientists to create a more precise map of the natural environment.

Environment Canada said the data collected at the site will help meteorologists better understand weather conditions specific to Iqaluit, which in turn will help them improve local weather forecasts across the North.

Although Environment Canada is leading the project, the agency is collaborating with Nunavut Arctic College and its Environmental Technology Program offering some hands-on training for students and guest lectures.

“This is just co-operation between the students in the ETP program as they do their normal studies,” Thomas explained. “The goal is to interest students who might one day be interested in atmospheric research.”

Environment Canada has deployed LIDAR technology in locations across the country since 2008.

The lasers don’t pose any threat to the environment, the agency said, and fellow department Transport Canada is working to ensure the lasers don’t disrupt any aircraft traffic.

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