The little satellite that could: ACE at 15
Launched by NASA on board the Canadian satellite SCISAT in 2003, the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE) was intended for a two-year mission. Fifteen years later, ACE is still providing excellent spectra that provide vital chemical and physical data about our atmosphere, particularly the ozone layer.
“ACE monitors the global distribution of more than 35 different species including CFCs, hydrochloric acid, and ozone - in other words, nearly all molecules specified by the Montreal Protocol and associated with the Antarctic ozone hole,” says Peter Bernath, ACE Mission Scientist and team lead for ACE’s Science Operations Centre headquartered in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo. “ACE represents quite an achievement in terms of return on investment, both for science and policy.”
The 1987 Montreal Protocol has been hailed as the world’s most successful international environmental treaty. It phases out the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other substances shown to deplete Earth’s protective ozone layer. ACE is monitoring the decline of these banned source gases in the lower atmosphere and of product gases such as hydrochloric acid in the stratosphere.
“We’re the only ones in orbit doing this, and in real time as a function of altitude,” says Bernath. “You can actually watch the ozone hole forming on our website where we post near-real time data every day.”
ACE is not only known for monitoring the ozone hole; scientists worldwide have published more than 430 papers using ACE data sets. For example, ACE data were used to show how the Asian monsoon directly injects combustion-generated pollution into the upper atmosphere by tracking hydrogen cyanide gas produced mainly by fires.
ACE data were also used to prove solar activity acts as an additional source of atmospheric nitrous oxide in the upper atmosphere. Previously, the only known natural source of nitrous oxide was denitrifying bacteria living in soils at the Earth’s surface. Nitrous oxide is not only an important greenhouse gas; it’s also a powerful ozone-depleting molecule.
The main ACE instrument was built in Quebec City by ABB and it has vastly outperformed the Canadian Space Agency’s original requirements. However, the satellite itself has no fuel on board. Its orbit is decaying steadily by about 1 kilometre per year. It’s scheduled to burn up in the atmosphere by 2035.
Meanwhile, this science mission continues to evolve and improve. The high resolution spectroscopic data gathered by ACE allows the Waterloo ACE team to forensically identify new species and then quantify their global concentration trends going back the entire 15 years of the project.
“We recently received a request to provide data on two hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are being regulated as part of the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol,” says Bernath. “We were able to isolate the signal in the spectra and within a month provide an entirely new data product. The unique algorithms the Waterloo team continue to develop are only possible with this project’s longevity.”
The Waterloo team is also producing cloud data for the upper troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere. ACE is the first spectrometer to record spectra of polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs), showing these clouds are in fact very small ice particles.
PMCs form at about 90 km above the ground when temperatures are very low. Climate change causes surface temperatures to increase and the upper atmosphere to cool, increasing the occurrence of PMCs. ACE data are expected to provide additional information on climate change.
The Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer will be publishing a Special Issue in honour of the 15th anniversary of ACE’s launch. For more information and to view the data freely available to the public, visit the ACE website, http://www.ace.uwaterloo.ca/. Additional research products are available upon request.
Peter Bernath is a Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Waterloo, professor and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and professor emeritus at University of York in Great Britain. ACE’s Science Operations Centre includes Dennis Cok, Chris Boone, Scott Jones, and Johnny Steffen.
How the Registrar's Office made $45M in OSAP payments in one day
Thanks to a new process for processing Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) payments, Student Awards & Financial Aid (SAFA) disbursed nearly $45 million in OSAP financial aid in one day - and that was before the term even started.
Starting this fall term, OSAP funding will go directly to the University to pay student fees for OSAP recipients, and remaining balances will be deposited to student bank accounts.
After working with Information Systems & Technology (IST) to create a whole new process, SAFA can now disburse OSAP payments to thousands of students with the click of a button, significantly improving accuracy and reducing the time it takes to get OSAP payments out.
Warriors go 2-0 with win against Toronto
This is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared on the Athletics and Recreation website.
The Waterloo Warriors took to the road for the first time this season, and it became instantly apparent that they remembered to pack their high-octane offence.
The Warriors used an explosive 17-point first quarter to seize control early, as they moved to 2-0 on the young season with a 41-18 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues at Varsity Stadium on Saturday night.
"It was a great team win on a very humid night in Toronto," said head coach Chris Bertoia. "Everyone made a significant contribution to the victory tonight, sticking to the game plan."
Tre Ford followed up his eye-popping stat line in week one with yet another top-notch performance: the second-year pivot completed 21 of 27 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns, while adding another 67 yards on the ground.
Coming off a week where he tied the OUA record for touchdown receptions in a game, Tyler Ternowski was at it again, catching 5 balls for 106 yards and a pair of scores, while Mitch Kernick was on the receiving end of two touchdown throws as well. Gordon Lam didn't crack the endzone, but he was Ford's most frequently looked-to target, making 6 catches for 86 yards on the night.
Blues quarterback Clay Sequeira was the busiest player on either side of the field, completing 31 of a jaw-dropping 47 pass attempts for 361 yards and a touchdown. Sequeira was constantly on the run and flushed out of the pocket all night, but he was able to turn some of those pressure situations into some gains with his feet – the pivot rushed 5 times for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Unlike their season-opening win against Windsor, the Warriors found more balance in the offence in week two, as they outrushed the Blues 212 yards to 84 yards.
Read the rest of the article on the Athletics website.