At a time when we are experiencing the effects of floods, fires and heatwaves like never before, a new space mission aims to improve climate projection models to help us understand what future scenarios may be possible.

chris fletcher

Dr. Christopher G. Fletcher
Professor, Faculty of Environment
> Waterloo Climate Institute
> Water Institute

In 2022, the Canadian Space Agency awarded the High-altitude Aerosols, Water Vapour and Clouds (HAWC) mission $200 million to create novel satellite instruments for measuring atmospheric changes. Dr. Chris Fletcher, an expert in earth systems modelling, is part of this scientific consortium developing the technology that will reveal previously unseen information on variables such as cloud temperature and location.

“We already have climate prediction models, but the problem is that we need to narrow the level of uncertainty as we project further into the future, like 50 or 100 years from now,” he says. “This mission will enhance our monitoring capabilities, allowing us to fill in gaps like monitoring the Arctic and other remote regions and make better predictions of climate impacts through to 2100.”

With work underway to design and build the instruments, Fletcher and the team will contribute to the pre-launch equipment testing on Earth before the space launch.

“HAWC is a mission that will be transformational for the next generation of climate scientists. It will not only give them improved technology to study climate change, but this mission will make Canadian universities like Waterloo a go-to destination over the next decades for students interested in space-based remote sensing.”

As the largest Canadian-led space mission in more than a decade, it’s part of a wider global effort to reduce uncertainties in climate projection models as identified by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As Canadian collaborators work with partners in Japan, France and the United States, it spotlights how critical collaborative research is for our collective future.