College of Arts and Science - where great minds meet

Atmospheric Dynamics Group

Professor Alan Manson (Physics and Engineering Physics, Emeritus), Dr. Chris Meek (Research Associate, Emeritus), Dr. Zhenhua Li (CANDAC-PAHA PDF)

Our group studies the Dynamics of the Mesosphere, Stratosphere and Tropopause, or Middle Atmosphere (circa 10 - 100km) … below us is the obscure ‘boundary layer’ or biosphere, while 100 km is near the seasonally height-varying Turbopause. We avoid chaos! The observing instrument is mainly the “Medium Frequency Radar” (MFR, or MF 2.2Mhz at Saskatoon, 52N 107W) which has operated continuously since 1979, or for 3.5 solar cycles, SC; the second MFR is located (since 1987 and so 3 SC) at Tromso, Norway on the EISCAT site (70N, 19E). We have also operated MFRs at triangles of unique size: 40km using three receiving sites (GRAVNET) near Saskatoon (circa 1988); a 500km-sided triangle, with two additional MF radars (Robsart, Sask., 49N 109W; Sylvan Lake, Alberta, 52N 114W), which were developed for the Canadian Network for Space Research (CNSR 1992-97); and another MF (forming a NS pair) located at Platteville (Colorado, 40N 105W) as part of the CEDAR program (2002-2015). The addition of international colleagues with an MF at London (1997-2005; Canada 43N, 81W), and two MFRs in Japan (Wakkanai, 45N, 142E; Yamagawa, 31N, 131E), along with our Platteville and Saskatoon MFRs, formed the CUJO Network (Canadian-USA-Japan Opportunity] 81W to 142E, years 2000-2007); and finally the ‘Scandinavian Triangle’ (sides 125 to 270km) with other colleagues for Andenes, (69N, 16E), Tromso (70N 19E) and Esrange (Meteor radar, 68N, 21E) for 1999-2008.  Despite the words thus far on “techniques”, we do not allow the radar technique to dominate our research interests, which have always been atmospheric: top of boundary layer (5km) to turbopause (circa 100km), coupling between regions of the planet, tropical to polar, southern and northern hemispheres. Data from the above triangles are archived and would be willingly provided to those with collaborative ideas-papers beyond ours

The development of CANDAC-PEARL at Eureka, Ellesmere Island (80N) has more recently provided a VHF meteor-scatter radar for winds and temperatures; this SKiYMET system was purchased from MARDOC Inc. Prof Manson is a Co-I for CANDAC [member of the Scientific Steering Committee], and along with Dr Meek “mentors” of the Eureka radar. We provide data to the CANDAC-PEARL Archive for international scientific community-collaborations; time sequences of preliminary data are available for perusal elsewhere at this ISAS web site. Our data archive runs from mid-February 2006, (with gap Sept.2013 to Sept.2015) and continues to this time (May 17, 2017).

The MFRs provide echoes from 55/75 to 110 km during day/night hours, and are analyzed by ‘spaced- antenna’ and interferometric techniques to provide winds and wave characterization with periods from 10 min. to 10 years (solar cycle intervals). For SKiYMET, neutral winds data are available from 82-97km. Atmospheric waves involve gravity waves (GW, 10 min to 15 h), tides that are migrating and ‘non-migrating with the sun’ (6-, 8-, 12- and 24-h), planetary waves (PW) (2 - 30d) and seasonal oscillations (12-, 6-, and 3-mths). The minimum period GWs from SKiYMET are 2 hrs; 10 min from the MFR. The three radars provide unique information on the spectral characteristics and wavelengths of these waves; the temporal variability and climatologies of the tides, GW and PW; latitudinal and longitudinal variabilities, structures and modes; and the physical coupling mechanisms between these various scales of motion. Tidal observations have been very successful in providing comprehensive knowledge of the seasonal variations of the 12- and 24-h migrating tides: 65-100km. Tides within the best GCMs, e.g. CMAM, are in useful agreement, but observed tides from Eureka (80N) and Svalbard (78N) are larger than modeled…also, their variability, which is due to non-migrating tides and specifically to Planetary Waves interactions, is larger than modelled.

Our research at Saskatoon has been and is coordinated with national and global-projects of SCOSTEP: “Scientific Committee on Solar Terrestrial Physics”, which match the interests of ISAS very well [Physics and Engineering Physics Dept, University of Saskatchewan], 1957 to present (May, 2017). SCOSTEP provides international collaborative programs and campaigns: VarSITI 2014-18 [Variability of the Sun and Its Terrestrial Impact], with our theme of interest, ROSMIC [Role Of the Sun and the Middle atmosphere / thermosphere / ionosphere In Climate).

During CAWSES (Climate and Weather of Sun-Earth System), 2004-08, Alan Manson led the ’Polar Vortex’ theme within CAWSES. We continue studies of the variabilities of the Polar Vortex within the ‘Polar Night’ Theme of CANDAC-PAHA: ‘Probing the Atmosphere of the High Arctic’, 2014-18.  Earlier completed SCOSTEP programs, for which archived data are also available include: Middle Atmosphere Program (MAP: 1982-85); Solar-Terrestrial Energy Program (STEP: 1990-97); STEP-Results, Applications, and Modeling Phase (SRAMP: 1998-2002); PSMOS (2002-2004. Satellite data are used from a variety of Missions: UARS-WINDII, UARS-HRDI, TIMED-SABER, -TIDI, Odin-OSIRIS, Aura-MLS, ACE-FTS. We are engaged/collaborate with the strong theoretical/observational activity within SPARC (Stratosphere-troposphere Processes and their Role in Climate) and MLT (Mesosphere Lower Thermosphere) communities. These involve tidal and PW studies; time-dependent gravity wave-, tide-, mean wind-structures within GCMs, whose results are usually consistent: Canadian GCM (GEM); CMAM-DAS, with integrated chemistry and ‘data assimilation’, DA; CMAM-30; UKMO-DA [UK Met Office] (used mainly), GEOS-DAS-5-MERRA. The US-based CEDAR programme (‘Polar Workshop’ e.g. Neutral Dynamics, 2017) also provides a regional North American framework for Middle Atmosphere (circa 10 to 100 km) research.

The nature of our CANDAC-PEARL (2005-17+) research [see nearby in this site for thematic research and papers] was collaboratively linked with CAWSES (2004-2008) and related continuations within ROSMIC, especially with the area of ‘waves and coupling processes’ at Eureka. Collaborations with other high latitude radars are engaged/essential e.g. Svalbard, Norway. Briefly: The Polar Regions are unique in the dynamics of the terrestrial atmosphere as they are in the vicinity of the Earth’s rotational axis. In the middle atmosphere they are seasonally and globally the site of large scale ascent and descent, summer/winter in the Arctic/Antarctic. Through our studies and models, also SCOSTEP programs, the consensus of atmospheric science communities is that global dynamics are driven by wave-breaking and dissipation [GW and PW], are either dominant or essential to understanding, knowledge and improved prediction capabilities of operational forecasting GCMs. On this latter, the MSC-EEEC has modest interest in what we are doing…lack of $- support appears to be a problem. Further, various oscillations within oceans and atmosphere [ENSO, AO (NAO), PDO and NPM, PNA] within which waves are imbedded, are jointly involved in rich explanations of large scale coupling processes in the various regions of the atmosphere. The Polar Winter Vortex [PV] is a dominant system for Canadian weather and climate.  The purpose of our PAHA-CCAR [“Probing the Atmosphere of the High Arctic” (2014-2018) [Canadian Climate and Atmospheric Research-NSERC]) studies is, for the polar middle atmosphere [circa 10-100km], to identify large scale motions and constituent changes, and to link wave phenomena to the Earth’s large scale circulation and to scales of Canadian provinces. The primary objectives include:

  • Investigation of wave signatures (gravity waves, tides and planetary waves) in the polar region, especially during disturbed conditions.
  • Identification and characterization of the processes which couple the polar region to other regions of the global atmosphere and also the various altitude regions (troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere/lower thermosphere) with each other … also longitudinal and hemispheric entities, since symmetry is not assumed.
  • Unique phenomena that occur as a result of this coupling and the wave-types themselves: ‘sudden mid-winter stratospheric warmings’, SSW; global constituent and aerosol mixing; extreme variability of wind and temperature-systems; disturbed non-climatological polar latitude airglow signatures [used by GB optical systems without height-ranging]; noctilucent clouds, and systematic and abnormal changes in cloud occurrences associated with Climate Change and Solar Activity.)

A focus upon the ‘radiationally unexpected’ phenomena in the atmosphere, circa 10 to 100 km (middle atmosphere, MA) continues to engage and stimulate us. They offer enormous observational advantages. These events are so unique that they require extreme combinations of dynamics, chemistry and radiation to bring them into existence: phenomena such as SSW (SUDDEN  stratospheric warmings) that suggest instabilities; mesospheric inversion layers [MIL]; equinoctial transitions…‘Final Stratospheric Warmings’ (of spring) as compared with mid-winter warmings (and are they really ‘Sudden’?); Stratospheric Warmings in the Arctic and Antarctica, with implications for  “Ozone Anomalies”, and the “Winter Anomaly” (of D-region ionization )…all await deeper understanding.  As example, is not clear that the polar stratospheres of the annual ‘two polar nights’, are comprehensively understood. Why there?  No UV radiation! Also, the SSW studies focus upon 10hPa or 30 km, while the maximum energy and minimization occurs at 50-55 km!  We have engaged in global studies throughout our careers and continue this essential dynamic … collaborations with colleagues at lower and tropical locations are welcomed.

The hemispheric differences in all of these phenomena must be considered…we are fortunate to live on ‘two-planets’. The studies must also be inclusive of all latitudes of the planet earth, as the equatorial regions have strong effects upon such phenomena, directly or indirectly, through dynamical processes. Their possible influences of Climate Change upon processes must be strongly in our thinking and strategies.

Optional! Thoughts on Research in Academe, 2017: the group at Saskatoon includes an emeritus senior scientist and research associate (Prof Alan Manson, Dr. Chris Meek), with PDF as PAHA funding allows (Zhenhua Li has been with us for three years [Feb 2014-May 2017]). We now look after the cost, maintenance and operation of the Saskatoon radar ourselves, as ‘Discovery Grant’-funding [expected base-line $ for well-behaved and productive academics on Nationally- and University-approved themes] from NSERC for senior scientists, such as we, is often not awarded. It seems that professors approved by Universities at Emeritus level, who were performing well and above average, for significant career-durations, should be awarded some reasonable subsistence level for ‘a few years’ [publications, attendance at conferences]. E.g. $10-15K pa. Otherwise, prominent Canadians suddenly vanish from the International scene, never to be seen again!  This at a time when some Canadian Research Chairs remark that they have too many $, and that the demands placed upon them by the ‘system’ are then beyond reasonable human expectations. I also remark, for the interest of those reading this paragraph, that typical Discovery Grants are now less than half what this modest man received annually for most of his career [unadjusted $]. Further, we seniors have trouble supervising the ‘essential graduate students’ [to some, the main role of Academic-research is as a Grad-MSc/PhD factory for national-wealth], as another younger Professor is required as co-supervisor-colleague.

There is more to ‘say’: The Description of ‘methodologies’ for natural science research, within the NSERC Discovery Grant document, is somewhat unique [developed politically over the last decade] and fixated upon goals and deliverables [we are not all Engineers who design and build beautiful and useful things]. Certainly, quite unlike excellent writings by Professors of Philosophy on the ‘scientific method’ [realistic to we scientists], this Description reads as if directed toward students in an undergraduate Physics or Engineering Lab. [maybe not a splendid lab], where success is almost assured, and goals sensibly never in doubt.  Dramatic occurrences testify to this, from conversations with groups of mature ‘grad-students’: They, who were well mentored in the methodology and practices of research (by their supervisors) and who then explain their [now understood /appreciated] approaches and methods in Applications for NSERC Grad Schols, have received rejections and criticism based upon their proposed ‘methods’. (As has Manson, in the second rejection [of my entire career, 49 years] of a Discovery Grant Application in 2012 (after fixing the problems noted in 2011 [reviewing systems have no memory]). Upon reflection, and discussions with Uni-staff who ‘trouble-shoot such issues’, they later submitted grad-applications with the ‘methods provided or inherent in the NSERC application material’, and were generally very successful.  They did not believe what they had written was GOOD, or correct, but they had to ‘play the game…the only game in town’. They realized their use of deception. Profs also may have Uni-advisors with skills in writing a successful application…further potential deceit. But, again, when the philosophy espoused in Discovery Grant literature is strongly evident in their applications, success rates are high. Members of committees have bought into this dogma, recognize it easily, award/’reward’ the writers, and have made ‘appeals’ close to impossible, based upon written materials in the Guide…even when aspects of that process may lack ethical stance/actions and even logic.  Evidence of ‘innovation’ is also required, explicitly, as if it were not usually there for Profs who write excellent and numerous papers in “good” journals. Such demands lead to exceptional claims by some applicants, although there is no indication that actual deliverables are being later assessed by ‘the system’. It is with great relief that we note another word has been added to ‘Innovative’ in major headings surrounding the ‘Science Review’…the writer cannot find that excellent word…I think it was “Discovery”!  Of course… 

A commonly heard remark is that if Einstein were a junior Professor in Canada today, he would have trouble in being awarded a Discovery Grant…mathematical theoretical physics? Methodology…? Experience informs me, as Scientist/Professor and Academic/Research Administrator of 50yrs in Canada, that when an Admin-program such as NSERC’s Discovery Grant is so much out of tune with the needs of Professors across the nation, the designers of the system/program are not listening to, or talking with, the Professors in the front line of activity…and maybe there are not enough active Academic Professors involved in the design of the program. ‘Canada’s Fundamental Science Review’, April 10, 2017, contains much fine detail and wisdom…but really nothing of the above has been perceived, and therefore is not addressed. The contamination of the Grant Applications literature is clever, subtle, almost invisible, yet dogmatic and powerful…a strong philosophical cleanser is needed, urgently.

We appreciate the support, collaborations with Prof Chris Hall at Tromso [1987-present], who operates the MF radar there.

Fortunately, opportunities do exist [my pension] for us to interact and network with other scientists in Canada, through CANDAC-PEARL, and in the international SCOSTEP community.  The ground-based systems and their associated research in Canada are well integrated with CSA-Space Science involving satellite prototypes /missions or data-archiving, so that opportunities for collaborations also exist.

We welcome contacts from Atmospheric Scientists who find our research, publications and data interesting. The dates and International Programs for which data are archived and available are provided above. We are likely to be interested in joining with you on topics of mutual interest.

Alan Manson
Phone: (306) 966-6449

Chris Meek
Phone: (306) 966-6446


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Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies
University of Saskatchewan
116 Science Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5E2 Canada
Phone: +306 966-6445 Facsimile +306 966-6400