Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman with his wife, Sangeetha, and children Sahaanaah and Varshana.

Inaugural Lecture Focuses on Monitoring the Atmosphere from Space and Ground-based Remote Sensing

Monitoring the atmosphere from space and ground-based remote sensing was the subject of the inaugural lecture presented by Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman of UKZN’s School of Chemistry and Physics.

Venkataraman argued that in the current context of global change, atmospheric and climatic research should be organised in the framework of international collaborations and research networks.

‘During recent years, the importance of systematic monitoring of the atmospheric structure, dynamics and composition has been confirmed by numerous satellite and surface observations,’ he said.

‘Over southern Africa and the neighbouring oceanic regions of the Indian Ocean, these regional impacts are influenced by dynamical variability and play an important role in global climate change. Compared to the developed regions of the northern hemisphere, the tropical and austral regions of the southern hemisphere are poorly documented even though they are important components of the global atmosphere.’

The lecture provided an overview of atmospheric research activities at UKZN and highlighted some of the recent results obtained over Southern Africa, from different ground based and space-borne observations.

Venkataraman obtained his PhD from Sri Venkateswara University. Having worked at the India Space Research Organisation he joined the Atmosphere Physics and Cyclone Laboratory at Reunion University as a postdoctoral researcher before moving to South Africa’s CSIR National Laser Centre in 2006 and the University of Pretoria in 2009, where his work involved the development of a mobile LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system for studying atmosphere particulate matter and pollutants. He successfully demonstrated the first atmosphere backscatter LiDAR in South Africa, which is currently operational.

Venkataraman has been employed at UKZN since December 2011. He is an honorary professor at the University of Pretoria and a Programme Director for the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP) node at UKZN. He is actively involved in teaching and postgraduate supervision and is currently supervising three postdoctoral, seven PhD and three masters students, with a further five postdoctoral, 12 PhD and 18 masters students already completed their degrees.

Venkataraman has published 211 research articles, five book chapters and a book. His research includes studies on middle atmospheric thermal structure and wave dynamics; mesospheric temperature inversion; studies on gravity waves, planetary waves and equatorial waves; stratospheric warming and planetary waves; aerosols and clouds; the general characteristics of the tropopause and its relation to the ozone concentration and the stratosphere-troposphere exchange; remote sensing techniques; and various kinds of pollution measurements.

Venkataraman has served as Vice-President and a Council Member of the South Africa Society for Atmosphere Science (SASAS) (2007-2016), President of SASAS (2017-2018), and National Executive Chair of NASSP (2018). He has been recognised as an atmospheric researcher and scientist internationally, and presently scores an h-index of 15 and Google scholar index of 17.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied