Research themes

Earth and near-space system and environmental change


Changing environment of the North

We study the northern environment from an interdisciplinary point of view. Our research includes studies on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and communities. The research links geosciences, ecology and hydrology to understand biodiversity and global change. The research is based on time series analysis and numerical modelling methods. The recent fast development of DNA sequencing and bioinformatics has opened new areas and possibilities for research into biomonitoring, the study of interaction of species and the functioning of ecosystems. Isotopic techniques provide ways to understand ecological and hydrological processes. Long term environmental observations provide a unique basis for our research. The research addresses the understanding of various interactions, evaluation and mitigation of global change impacts.

Arctic atmosphere and ionosphere

The arctic atmosphere and ionosphere are affected by energetic particle precipitation, cosmic rays, solar radiation and space weather, the latter manifesting itself as Northern lights. The University of Oulu and Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory maintain long-term measurements to provide validated high-quality data for the global geospace environment research. The international EISCAT_3D radar, with stations distributed in Northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, will be the world’s leading incoherent scatter radar for studying the ionosphere and atmosphere in the Arctic region when the operation starts in 2022. An integral part of the research is modelling to understand the forcing of atmosphere by energetic particles, related changes in chemistry and dynamics, and their role in climate variability. The University of Oulu has developed a model of ionisation of the lower and middle atmosphere, providing a reference for climate models. Development of measurement methods and instruments by inverse mathematics is one of the corner stones of the research.

Space weather and space climate

The Sun’s magnetic fields modulate the fluxes of electromagnetic radiation and energetic particles and the properties of the solar wind. This variation affects the near-Earth space, atmosphere, climate and even technological systems at different timescales, from sudden changes in space (Space weather) to variability over the solar cycle and beyond (Space climate). During the 20th century the Sun was very active, but this so-called Grand Maximum has now come to an end, and future solar activity is expected to be much lower. The University of Oulu is among the world leaders in the field. We use observations by several satellite and ground-based instruments to study the evolution of solar magnetic fields, solar wind, geomagnetic storms, cosmic rays and particle precipitation and their effects to the Earth‘s atmosphere and climate. The newly found systematic features of solar activity will allow us to forecast space weather at a longer lead time than now. We participate in the European Space Agency´s activities, including the future Space weather L5/L1 satellite program.

Solar system astronomy

Solar system research explores the properties of dust around planets and the evolution of planetary rings. An outstanding puzzle of rings is their fine structure, which is studied both with analytical and N-body tools. Large amounts of dust particles are found around the giant planets. The grains reveal the precise composition of the surfaces of the moons they originate from, and in some cases even their subsurface composition. The research addresses key questions of the Cosmic Vision, the current (2015-2025) plan for science missions of the European Space Agency (ESA). It uses measurements with instruments onboard spacecraft, like the forthcoming ESA spacecraft JUICE to the Jupiter system, and the NASA Europa Clipper that will explore the subsurface water ocean of Jupiter‘s moon Europa. Another major area of interest is the risk that larger dust particles pose to future ESA missions. Beyond our own solar system, the structure of galaxies is investigated with closely related N-body methods.