Jean-Philippe Gauthier-Bilodeau - Predicting the Future

After studying computer science at UQAC and UQAM, Jean-Philippe did his internships at the Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC). “My internship assignments were interesting to me. But it's not meteorology that interests me as much as visualizing future scenarios,” says Jean-Philippe. The transfer of his knowledge and training in a feld with direct application for society attracted Jean-Philippe, who quickly found a job at the CMC after his internships in 1998.

With the CMC’s Environmental Emergency Response Section, Jean-Philippe helps develop sophisticated models that simulate the spread of hazardous materials on a given scale and location – in a city, a region or even across the planet. "Using supercomputers, we can access a large volume of data. This is extremely  exciting,” says Jean-Philippe. "The Canadian Meteorological Centre is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We gather data in real time from around the world – and even from space."

"Every day, I take the science developed by research and translate it into something useful for first responders," says the programmer analyst. Forest fires, chemical fires, toxic leaks, nuclear incidents, volcanic ash. Jean-Philippe helps scientists predict how hazardous materials can spread under various atmospheric and geographical conditions. For example, wind can play an important role in moving materials through the atmosphere and determining what areas will be affected.

And, in recent years, Jean-Philippe and his colleagues have been developing aquatic modeling capabilities, for events such as oil spills in water. "This knowledge is essential," says Jean-Philippe: “It is important for the protection of people and the environment. These various simulations provide advice to emergency response services so they can make the right decisions to deal with a variety of dangerous situations." Air currents, ocean currents, buildings and topography – Jean-Philippe must consider each of these elements in the scenarios he simulates. "We have modeled almost anything that can disperse in the air, even  butterflies!" laughs Jean-Philippe.

The ultimate goal is to acquire as much information as possible to improve the quality of forecasts and make the simulations as accurate as possible. “I am especially proud of my work because I am making a real hands-on contribution to the protection of the environment and to the safety of Canadians.