Geophysical Institute
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Geophysical Institute

Scientists at the Geophysical Institute are involved in scientific research into Earth, Sky and Space. They specialize in cold climate research of all kinds. Some of the research is performed with the Alaska Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Facility in the Geophysical Institute.

Among those things studied is the Aurora Borealis, part of their studies of the earth's geospace environment, covering the space from the sun to our atmosphere. Studies of the Aurora have been the centerpiece for   their research since the Institute was first established in 1946. The Aurora provides a wonderful example of the interaction between the solar wind and the earth's atmosphere. There are some spectacular Aurora images on the internet and the page linked here has an aurora forcast. Other links for the aurora can be found here.

Atmospheric Sciences:

The Atmospheric Sciences research group's interests cover a broad spectrum of topics in atmospheric sciences, with our research results often bearing directly on societal issues surrounding climate variability and change. Many of the group also maintain research interests in other regions of the globe. We strive to understand the polar atmosphere and its role within the earth system. Our projects utilize a variety of observational, modeling and remote sensing techniques and can be divided into several topical areas:

bulletAtmospheric Remote Sensing
bulletAtmospheric Chemistry
bulletChemistry Transport Modeling
bulletCloud/Aerosol Physics
bulletClimate Variability and Change
bulletMesoscale Modeling
bulletMeteorology of the Middle and Upper Atmosphere

Remote Sensing:

The Earth and Planetary Remote Sensing group is involved with many diverse research interests. These interests range from geological, volcanological and planetary sciences and include topics such as, sea and lake ice, volcanoes, Venusian structures with stereo-derived topography, ecology and much more! We are fortunate to receive data in real time, such as AVHRR, MODIS and RadarSat at our receiving stations and through networks from NOAA stations. NASA World Wind - image cropped by Jon Dehn. The group has access to additional data and knowledge from other associated remote sensing groups at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Earth and Planetary Remote Sensing group includes these research areas:


Seismology and Geodesy:

The faculty and research scientists who comprise the Seismology and Geodesy research group pursue research around the globe, while remaining directly connected to seismic and geodetic measurements of Alaska's dynamic tectonics. We study earthquakes in the solid Earth and glaciers, crustal and mantle structure, active tectonics and deformation of the Earth. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center, located on site, is in charge of monitoring earthquakes in mainland Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Center personnel educate residents about earthquakes throughout Alaska the most seismically active state in the nation. As part of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, AEIC informs Alaska communities on the risks of tsunamis and provides inundation mapping for many of Alaska's coastal communities.

They are using the dynamic "experiments" provided by the frequent eruptions in Alaska's Aleutian Arc to study the behavior of magmas as they approach and erupt at Earth's surface. Explosive volcanism has an environmental impact reaching way beyond the immediate "disaster" and is a key to the character and history of the planet and its surface environment. Within the United States, explosive volcanism is first an Alaskan problem.

Many faculty and staff from the group are affiliated with the Alaska Volcano Observatory, which is responsible for understanding and monitoring volcanic activity across the North Pacific.

We collaborate with the following groups at UAF:

bulletAlaska Earthquake Information Center
bulletAlaska Volcano Observatory.
bulletArctic Region Supercomputing Center
bulletAlaska Satellite Facility
bulletUAF Department of Geology & Geophysics
bulletEarthScope in Alaska

Snow, Ice and Permafrost:

The goal of cryospheric research at the Geophysical Institute is to understand the properties and processes which occur within snow (seasonal snow cover), ice (including glaciers and sea ice, including greenhouse effects on the ice sheet.)  and Permafrost, their role in the shaping of the landscape, and their influence on climate and impact on the biosphere Studies include field investigations throughout the arctic, antarctic, and and mountainous regions of our planet, with increasing participation in the exploration of Mars and Jovian satellites.

Space Physics & Aeronomy:

The Space Physics & Aeronomy research group studies the Earth's geospace environment, which extends from the surface of the sun to Earth's stratosphere. Major topics investigated by the group are associated with the response of the magnetosphere and ionosphere to solar disturbances that reach the Earth after propagating through interplanetary space. Researchers in the group carry out their studies using theory and simulation, sounding rockets, analysis of satellite-based observations, and ground-based observations of magnetic fluctuations, low-frequency sound waves, light from auroral emissions, and radio signals reflected from atmospheric irregularities. The group is affiliated with the UAF Physics and Electrical Engineering departments, Poker Flat Research Range, the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar, SuperDARN, and Chaparral Physics.

The main areas of research carried out in the group are:

bulletAuroral Studies
bulletIonospheric Physics
bulletMagnetospheric Physics
bulletSpace Weather

Tectonics & Sedimentation

The Tectonics & Sedimentation research group strives to reconstruct the processes of Earth's history over a variety of time scales. Alaska and the adjacent regions of the circumpolar North provide a rich environment for such research. The Pacific, North American and Eurasian plates meet in Alaska, creating an exciting natural laboratory for research in this area.

bulletEvaluation of ancient geography, oceanography, and climate change
bulletHistory of continental deformation
bulletExploration and production of natural resources
bulletDevelopment of the Arctic Ocean


Volcanolgy at UAF encompasses:

bulletRemote Sensing and

The Remote Sensing within the Volcanology group interacts with the Remote Sensing group. We are entertwined with the Department of Geology; we work closely with the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys and we are part of the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) consortium.

"The long term payoff is in education and international connections as much as science. We try to give students the maximum possible opportunity to experience different and challenging physical environments and different styles of doing science. By placing an emphasis on exchange of information and personnel in the North Pacific, we hope to re-establish direct connections that were made impossible by conditions during the last half of the 20th century and which were, when they existed, essentially re-routed the long way around the globe. This is an exciting place to do volcanology because there is a strong aspect of exploration and discovery, because there is a high level of volcanic activity, and because we are at a historic moment of reconnection."

The results of the research conducted at the Geophysical Institute are useful in Alaska both in developing an understanding of scientific problems (including global change) and in the solution of applied problems (including the development of resources, such as agriculture).

For more information on the Geophysical Institute, call (907) 474-7558. You can visit them on the web at Geophysical Institute They no longer offer guided tours of the Geophysical Institute, but they do have "self-guided tour packets" that are located in the main entrance of the Elvey Building.


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