Stormy Weather: Storms on the Sun and Their Effects on Planet Earth
The Sun is a dynamic star with frequent storms that send streams of high-energy particles and radiation toward Earth. These storms cause disturbances in the "space weather" of the upper atmosphere, leading to serious side effects on space vehicles, communication satellites, power grids, and Earth's climate.
The Sun's stormy weather fascinates Canada Research Chair Dr. Jean-Pierre St.-Maurice. A physicist with a rich background in geophysics, and atmospheric and plasma sciences, Dr. St.-Maurice is studying the ionosphere over the Canadian Arctic. For his research, he is using PolarDARN, a new radar developed at the Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies (ISAS), to measure the winds of the upper atmosphere and relate them to the energetic particles coming directly from the storms of the Sun.
Dr. St.-Maurice is also studying small-scale structures and waves in the ionosphere (1- to 100-metre sizes), using a wide variety of theoretical, modelling, and observational tools such as radars and satellites. He tries to clarify the relationships that exist between metre-size structures and the large-scale (hundreds of kilometres) processes within the northern lights. Like many of us, he has gazed with awe at the brilliant aurora covering the northern winter skies, and appreciated the constantly changing patterns, swirls, and streaks of multi-hues. He hopes his work will illuminate the processes that produce these phenomena.
In addition, Dr. St.-Maurice provides leadership in the environmental sciences at the University of Saskatchewan, where there is a large community of professors and scientists who are researching global change issues, including climate change - whether induced by human activity or storms on the Sun.