Paul Charbonneau

Worldwide Leading Expert in Astrophysic

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Paul Charbonneau is Professor at the Physics Department of Université de Montréal, Canada, where he leads the research group in Solar Physics. He is also an affiliate scientist at the High Altitude Observatory, the Solar-Terrestrial division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A. Trained in astrophysics, for the past twenty years his research has focused the physical mechanisms underlying solar activity, and its impacts on Earth’s atmosphere and space environment.


1. What is space weather and why you should care
2. Solar-Terrestrial Interactions: an historical perspective
3. Solar Activity and Climate Change

From 1991 to 2002 Paul was a member of the scientific staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where he applied his computational skills to a wide range of challenging contemporary research questions, including solar internal structure and rotation, the dynamo process powering the solar activity cycle, and solar eruptive phenomena. He also held an adjunct Professor appointment at the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences department of the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he taught graduate courses in solar physics. In 2002 he accepted a Canada Research Chair at the Université de Montréal, where he built what has since become the largest solar physics research group in Canada, and broadened his research to encompass solar flare prediction, the study of solar radiative variability, and its impacts on the Earth’s stratosphere.

In 2010 his group succeeded in producing the first global magnetohydrodynamical numerical simulation of solar convection generating solar-like magnetic cycles.

Paul has been a pioneer in introducing advanced computational techniques, such as genetic algorithms and lattice-based avalanche models, into astrophysical research. An overarching theme of his work is the understanding of natural complexity, in particular the manner in which complex physical systems governed by relatively simple dynamical processes at the level of their individual components and physical laws, can lead to emergent global behavior that cannot be anticipated through a reductionist approach.

Paul is currently an Editorial Board member of the research Journals Solar Physics and Space Science Reviews, and is regularly invited to serve on scientific organizing committees of major international research meetings in the fields of solar and space physics. He has lectured at world-leading international advanced schools, notably the Saas Fee Advanced School of the Swiss Society for Astrophysics and Astronomy (2009), and the NASA Heliophysics Summer School (2009 and 2014). He has written comprehensive review articles on the solar dynamo and magnetic activity cycle, and has authored over one hundred technical papers in leading research Journals. His ongoing writing activities include a technical monograph on complex systems; as well as a book on solar activity and climate change, aimed at the general public and now near completion. His Saas Fee lectures notes have recently been published by Springer Verlag.

Paul has delivered countless public lectures related to his research to audiences including primary and high school children, university students in the arts and humanities, amateur astronomers as well as students and professionals from all fields of science and engineering. An experienced and award winning teacher, he strives to communicate his understanding of space and solar physics to the general public by appealing to common sense and everyday experience.

  • Bild Solar and Stellar Dynamos
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