The Project

Project Summary

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. Our key contribution is the measurement of clouds, aerosols, forest fire smoke, and volcanic ash across the Canadian Micro-pulse Lidar Network (MPLCAN).


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 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.


The objective of MPLCAN is to develop:

1. a Canadian Smoke and Particulate tracking network, to help with forest fires, air quality, and emergency management.

2. assessment of the impact of profiling measurements on surface total column measurements.

3. profiling measurements to improve modelling of cloud, and fog development.

Project Collaborators and Partners

  • NASA Micro-pulse Lidar Network.  Allows measurements of a series of data products and distributes them in real-time for public access (Normalized Relative Backscatter, Volume depolarization, Aerosol extinction, Planetary Boundary Layer height).
  • E-PROFILE is a program of EUMETNET Composite observing system, managing various remote sensing instruments for wind and particulates. Western University currently partners with E-PROFILE as its only North American site.
  • The AEROCAN sunphotometer network is run as a joint collaboration between the Université de Sherbrooke and Environment and Climate Change Canada. AEROCAN is a federated member of the global AERONET system of CIMEL sunphotometers run out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The AERONET (AErosol RObotic NETwork) project is a collaboration of ground-based remote sensing aerosol networks established by NASA and PHOTONS (PHOtométrie pour le Traitement Opérationnel de Normalisation Satellitaire; Univ. of Lille (France). The network proves long-term, publicly accessible measurements of aerosol properties. AERONET data products include aerosol optical depth (AOD), inversion products, and precipitable water in diverse aerosol regimes.

Principal Investigator