Dr. Karen Dodds (Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment):
Thank you very much.
I'd like to begin by thanking everyone for the opportunity to come back and provide an update on Environment Canada's ozone program. As I stated when I was here last December, Environment Canada remains fully committed to monitoring ozone. This time I have some opening remarks, but you should also have a deck. There are some visuals, some ozone maps that we thought you might be interested in having with you as a more interesting reminder of what we will be talking about today.
Ozone in the upper atmosphere, known as stratospheric ozone, as you know plays a very important role in protecting the earth's surface, and humans, from harmful ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from the sun.
As you may be aware, Environment Canada's ozone program dates back more than 50 years, and has played a pivotal role in helping to understand ozone and the risks posed by thinning of the ozone layer. Canada's current ozone activities are the direct result of the significant contributions that Environment Canada has made over the years in ozone science.
In this statement, I will share with you examples of these contributions and provide you with an update on the status of our ozone program.
In 1982 Environment Canada scientists made an important contribution to ozone monitoring when they developed the Brewer ozone spectrophotometer, which is an instrument that measures the total thickness of the ozone layer. This device was developed at a time when concerns about ozone depletion were just emerging and improved data on the ozone layer was urgently needed. The Brewer ozone spectrophotometer is capable of taking automated measurements, which make it very useful, and of measuring both ozone and UV radiation. It's a significant technological advancement compared with earlier instruments.
The Brewer ozone spectrophotometer continues to be recognized today as the most accurate ground-based instrument for measuring ozone in the upper atmosphere, and it's used for monitoring of ozone by countries around the world.
In 1992, Environment Canada improved services for Canadians with the development of the UV index, a tool used to express the sunburn potential of UV radiation at the earth's surface.
Because of Environment Canada's work, Canada was the first country to provide forecasts of predicted daily UV levels. The UV index is now used worldwide and has been extremely influential in raising awareness of the potential risks for exposure to UV radiation.
Since Environment Canada's ozone program began more than 50 years ago, our scientific understanding of stratospheric ozone has significantly advanced. Scientific knowledge on ozone was essential in driving the formation of the Montreal protocol in 1987, and in the protocol's success in reducing ozone-depleting substances.
Both Environment Canada and the World Meteorological Organization have documented the positive trends in the recovery of the ozone layer. However, it's important to note that there continues to be variability and uncertainty in this recovery process.
For example, as you're aware, a 2011 paper co-authored by one of our scientists and published in the prestigious journal Nature reported a record loss in the ozone in the Arctic in spring 2011. Environment Canada's monitoring helps in identifying ozone losses, such as the one reported in that paper, and our long-term monitoring records help us understand these observations within the context of the overall trends in the ozone layer in the Arctic.
Our most recent observational data show that in this year, 2012, Arctic ozone levels were closer to normal pre-depletion levels, or pre-1980 levels, than they were in spring 2011, but the depletion of about 5% to 10% below normal was still observed. This kind of variability underscores the importance of ongoing monitoring of ozone.
Similarly, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commonly known as NOAA, recently reported on the ozone layer in the Antarctic, noting that this year's seasonal ozone hole in the Antarctic, which occurs in September and October, is the second-smallest observed over the last 20 years. The smallest ozone hole was observed ten years ago, in 2002.
In my previous discussion with this committee, I provided information on the path forward for Environment Canada's ozone program. As a result of our continuing efforts to make optimal use of the public funds allocated to us, Environment Canada identified that operational efficiencies can be achieved in our ozone program, while still ensuring that we continue to meet our ongoing ozone-related obligations.
To achieve greater operational efficiency, we've stated our intent to integrate the operations of our two main ozone monitoring methods—as you will recall, these are the Brewer method and the ozone method—into a larger, integrated, and more sustainable monitoring network.
In the past, our ozone program focused heavily on the development of new monitoring technology in order to respond to the need for more advanced tools to understand the ozone layer. As a result, Environment Canada's monitoring efforts, using the Brewer method and the ozone-sonde method, evolved separately, leading to separate operations and maintenance systems that each required uniquely trained staff. This separation meant that our monitoring was vulnerable to fluctuations in the availability of staff capacity trained to maintain the operations for each method.
Today our focus is on better implementing and using these technologies to monitor ozone. Our focus is on the ozone rather than the technology. Our decision to integrate Brewer and ozone monitoring into an integrated network will help reduce operational vulnerabilities and ensure that our ozone monitoring is more robust and sustainable over the long term. This is a natural decision for us in light of the maturity of our technologies and the importance of ongoing ozone monitoring.
At my last appearance, I reported that Environment Canada was launching a review of our ozone monitoring in order to inform the integration of monitoring operations into a larger network. Our senior research scientists are in the process of evaluating all of our ozone monitoring sites and developing options and timelines for how to proceed with the integration of the operations, while still continuing delivery of the ozone monitoring for Canadians. It is estimated that this review and the design and implementation of the new integrated network will be completed and fully operational within a three-year period.
Throughout this process, we continue to monitor stratospheric ozone at ten Brewer sites and eight ozone sites across Canada. This includes our three long-term sites in Canada's far north, based at Alert, Eureka, and Resolute, which are of course important for comparison to baselines.
At my previous committee appearance, I also reported that we continue to be committed to operating the World Meteorological Organization's world ozone and UV data centre. This is an international scientific archive and database that provides a variety of ozone and UV radiation data sets to the global scientific community.
To better deliver on the commitment, the operational functions of the data centre have been transferred to my colleague in the Meteorological Service of Canada, still within Environment Canada, and managed by David Grimes.
I am pleased to report that the transfer of the data centre's operations is now almost complete. The centre continues to provide service to the ozone community worldwide. Within my shop, we continue to work closely with our colleague by providing scientific oversight. By migrating the operations to the meteorological service, global ozone data will be managed in a more modern data management system.
Environment Canada reported on the status of the data centre at recent meetings of the World Meteorological Organization's science advisory group for ozone. We reconfirmed Canada's commitment to hosting the data centre, as we have done since 1962.
Environment Canada also continues to fulfil its responsibilities to the WMO and the global scientific community with respect to the maintenance of the Brewer Triad.
The Brewer Triad is a trio of Brewer ozone spectrophotometers that serve as the reference for the calibration of other spectrophotometers throughout the world. Environment Canada is responsible for the data collected by the triad, ensuring that the instruments are operating correctly, and for periodically calibrating the triad with Environment Canada's two spectrophotometers situated at the NOAA facility in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.
A fourth Brewer spectrophotometer, known as the “travelling standard”, is provided by Environment Canada to calibrate other Brewer instruments throughout the world.
Before closing, I want to provide a little extra information on the full range of air quality monitoring that we do. In addition to monitoring stratospheric ozone, we monitor a wide range of air pollutants that impact air quality and human and ecosystem health, including surface-level ozone, or tropospheric ozone; nitrogen oxide; sulphur dioxide; carbon monoxide; a number of persistent organic pollutants; particulate matter; and metals and mercuries, among others.
We lead a national integrated air quality monitoring effort that includes the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network in partnerships with all of our provinces. This network was established in 1969 as a cooperative initiative with the provinces and territories to monitor the quality of ambient air. This monitoring network is comprised of 186 urban and rural sites in communities across Canada. Major ambient air pollutants are monitored continuously at these sites, and more than 300 chemical substances are analyzed in samples collected from the sites.
From this work we know that significant improvements have been made to Canada's air quality over the last 30 to 40 years. For example, emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides have decreased by 63% and 17% respectively between 1985 and 2010. Concentrations of ambient particulate matter at urban sites across Canada have declined by approximately 35% between 1984 and 2009.
Our air quality monitoring is an important background in the development and future operations of the air quality management system, which was recently agreed to by ministers at the federal and provincial levels.
I'm extremely proud of the calibre of our air monitoring and the dedication of our scientists and staff in producing the data and knowledge necessary to support the delivery of environmental services and to inform policy and regulatory decisions that help Environment Canada help protect Canada's environment.
Thank you again for this opportunity to provide you with further information about Environment Canada's ozone program.
Dr. Karen Dodds:
Thank you. I'm happy to do so.
In terms of the scientific oversight from science and technology branch, that continues, and we have research scientists whose expertise is in ozone and in the data related to ozone in the atmosphere.
An immense amount of data is collected by our different monitoring programs, and the World Ozone and UV Radiation Data Centre is exactly that, it's a data centre. So it's not just our scientists, but our scientists working with others.
When I say “scientists”, MSC has meteorological scientists, they have scientists in statistics and in treatment, and we have scientists in atmospheric science, in meteorological science. So you can use the words “science oversight”. But we are supplying scientific oversight in terms like...what's the best method for using for monitoring, standardizing the method? Again, if you're using ozone monitoring around the world, you just don't want to calibrate the Brewers. You want to standardize the method, calibrate the method.
Those are the kinds of things where you have primarily a scientific input and give standards to the data centre to adhere to them.
Last time I checked, I think there were 400 sites around the world that provide spectro data into the World Ozone and UV Radiation Data Centre. This is a huge amount of data. Meteorological services, with its background in weather data, is very experienced in the handling of data. We certainly felt it was quite an appropriate move to give the data management to people with an expertise in data management and to maintain the science of ozone and the health of the ozone layer in the science and technology branch.