Lab Canada

Cutting-edge severe weather forecasting technology to be developed

Québec City, QC – The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the National Optics Institute (INO) have formed a partnership to improve forecasting of severe weather events. As part of the partnership, the CSA is awarding a contract worth $650,000 to the INO to further develop and test a new thermal imaging sensor (far infrared radiometer [FIRR]) that requires no cooling and is compact enough to fly on a very small satellite. This will be the first of its kind and the partners say it may eventually open new commercial opportunities for Canadian industry.

This instrument will detect ice clouds forming at high latitudes that contribute to the cold, dry air masses feeding mid-latitude winter storms. Satellite measurements of these clouds and their impacts on atmospheric cooling will improve our ability to forecast severe weather events like unusual winter storms.

The FIRR incorporates new detector technology for extended thermal sensing. It will be tested in an airborne campaign in the Canadian Arctic in spring 2015 and in a ground-based campaign at Eureka in winter 2015/16.

These projects will involve collaboration between government departments and university scientists across Canada, with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for Climate Change and Atmospheric Research. Scientists will test the technology and evaluate the data in preparation for future space missions. Analysis of the FIRR data from the airborne and ground-based campaigns will leverage resources from several major university research projects supported by NSERC.

The airborne campaign scheduled for spring 2015 in the Canadian Arctic will be supported by NSERC, Environment Canada, the CSA and the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.

Demonstration of this new technology, and the scientific measurements that it enables, is a step towards an eventual space-borne instrument of this type. CSA says the technology is envisioned for a previously announced micro-satellite candidate missions: Thin Ice Clouds in the Far InfraRed Experiment.