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New research chair to advance atmospheric science discoveries

New research chair to advance atmospheric science discoveries

Tom McElroy, one of Canada’s foremost atmospheric scientists, will lead a major research initiative at York University to design instruments that can be used in space to study air quality, the ozone layer and climate change.

McElroy has been named NSERC/ABB/CSA Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Atmospheric Remote Sounding. The research chair is funded by NSERC, space technology firm ABB Bomem Inc., and the Canadian Space Agency. It will be based in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, where McElroy has been appointed as a professor of earth and space science.

There will be a formal announcement of the new research chair today and as part of the event, McElroy (PhD '85) will deliver a public lecture titled, "Ozone Science: From Discovery to Recovery". The lecture will take place at 2:30pm today in 519 York Research Tower. 

Above: York earth and space science Professor Tom McElroy

The industrial research chair will support an innovative research program in advanced instrumentation development and its application to ground-based, satellite and airborne measurement of atmospheric composition. The five-year position will also assist York University in establishing and strengthening industrial partnerships that will provide opportunities for students from York to experience enhanced training and exposure to research challenges with industrial applications.

"With this IRC, I have been given a wonderful opportunity to share the knowledge I have gained from participating in several space projects, numerous aircraft missions and dozens of high-altitude balloon flights," said McElroy. "This kind of research is what prepared me for my long and satisfying career and I hope that I can help York students enjoy the same satisfaction and success in theirs."

McElroy, who recently left Environment Canada after 36 years, headed up the Space Experiments Section in the Air Quality Directorate of the Atmospheric Environment Service. He has received an international research award from the World Meteorological Organization and was involved in the landmark Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, contributing scientific data and assessments that drove policy analyses and promoted the construction of an international framework for ozone layer protection.

His experience and knowledge extends beyond his contributions to the study of the ozone layer and the impact that chemicals like chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) have on it. He is a co-inventor of the Brewer Ozone Spectrophotometer, which is used to measure ozone in 45 countries around the world. He is also co-inventor of the UV Index, now in use in 30 countries. McElroy managed the development of the AES hand-held Sunphotometer which Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau used to make ozone measurements on his first space flight in 1984. Recently, McElroy has been collaborating with other scientists at York and elsewhere in designing the atmospheric measurement payload for the planned Canadian Polar Communications and Weather satellite.

"We are celebrating a research leader who is using his talent and knowledge to spearhead innovation for Canada’s aerospace industry," says Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. "The advancements produced by Dr. McElroy’s team will provide new tools for space science. His research will also produce important data that will give Canadians new insight into issues like ozone recovery and climate change."

Henry Buijs, chief technical officer of ABB Bomem Inc., a leading Canadian space technology firm, said ABB Bomem is pleased to support McElroy’s new research program. "We feel that this collaboration with a researcher with expertise in instrument design, as well as an intimate knowledge of the science obtained with the instrumentation, will provide a significant strategic benefit for ABB as well as advance scientific research," he said.

McElroy is being greeted with great anticipation in his new role at York because of his longtime commitment to advocacy in the field of atmospheric science.

"The Faculty of Science & Engineering is excited about expanding our existing partnerships and supporting the innovative and ground-breaking research of Professor Tom McElroy," says York biology Professor Imogen Coe, associate dean of research & partnerships. "This research chair builds and strengthens our industrial partnerships and the innovative research of the Industrial Research Chair awarded to Professor McElroy will address pressing issues in climate science leading to significant positive outcomes for Canada."