Duck Group

Prof. Thomas J. Duck’s Polar Remote Sensing research group is located in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University, in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada).

A brightness temperature (K) swath measured at 88.2 GHz by the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) aboard the Suomi NPP satellite. We use theory and radiative transfer models to retrieve geophysical properties from data such as these.

We use microwave satellite remote sensing to measure water vapour columns, surface emitting-layer temperatures, and surface emissivities in the polar regions during winter. The data are used for climate research and are important for numerical weather prediction. Using the measurements to assess the accuracy of atmospheric reanalyses – and thereby our understanding of past and future climates – is a key component of the work.

Students who are interested to join the group should contact Prof. Duck directly (info at bottom). We are always on the lookout for applicants with strong analytical, quantitative, and programming abilities. Degrees in physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science all provide appropriate backgrounds. In the course of our research, students can expect to learn remote-sensing techniques, the use of radiative transfer models, modern programming practices, and data analysis methods. We use the Python programming language in our work. Graduates of the group have continued on to successful careers in industry, government, and academia.

We are motivated by the single most important long-term threat facing the world today: climate change. Water vapour is a key component of the climate system, responsible for amplifying the radiative impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The Arctic in particular is warming at an alarming rate, yet our knowledge of the water vapour distribution at high latitudes is limited. The threat of severe weather events will require better forecasting systems, which will require improvements in our ability to separate emissivity from surface temperature effects in microwave data.

Our current retrievals (see here and here) use numerical optimization of parameterized radiative transfer equations together with the radiative transfer model RTTOV. Our current approaches employ optimal estimation, and will ultimately include artificial neural networks. We are grateful for funding from NSERC to carry out our research.

Earlier studies by the group involved the development and operation of laser radar (lidar) systems for the Arctic and Mars. Prof. Duck was co-founder of the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change (CANDAC) which operates the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in the High Arctic at Eureka. He was also a Co-Investigator on the 2008 Phoenix Mars Scout mission. See our publications for more information.

Contact Information

Prof. Thomas J. Duck <>
Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Dalhousie University,
Sir James Dunn Building, 6310 Coburg Road, PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3H 4R2.