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Position: Senior Lecturer
Field: Geography
Organisation: University of Canterbury

Dr Peyman Zawar-Reza is a senior lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Canterbury. He is using computer models to study the effects of wind movement on pollution in Christchurch city.

Some people like to make models of planes or fast cars but Peyman is much more interested in recreating how the air moves a grain of sand around. He uses computer models to predict air movement in three dimensions over an area like Christchurch.

The models can predict air movement and can be used to predict the build-up and movement of air pollutants such as particulates. On a still winter day in Christchurch, the pollution level is relatively low, but when the Sun goes down, several things happen. People head home in their cars and light up their woodburners.

At the same time, the surface of the earth cools down, which creates a temperature inversion that acts like a cap trapping the particulates produced by the cars and the burners over the city. This build up of particulates can be shown in the computer model. It is hard to take measurements in every part of the city, so the model can be used to predict pollution levels in different parts of Christchurch, and these maps of pollution can then be compared to levels of sickness in different part of the city.

Peyman recognises the importance of using a model and says,

One of the neat things about using models, it allows you to test your hypothesis and your knowledge, because you can act like God – and change anything you like.

Peyman was born in Iran and then moved to Canada. After doing a BSc in biochemistry he became an aircraft pilot. It was while flying that he became fascinated with wind, having experienced its effects first hand, so he was inspired to do further study on meteorology at university. That led to him completing a PhD in environmental sciences and a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Canterbury.

He is now a senior lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Canterbury. His work looks at the effect of weather on air pollution and how, in turn, that air pollution affects people’s health.

He is still fascinated by wind, studying wind systems here in New Zealand and overseas in locations as diverse as the Antarctic and the Sistan Basin in Iran/Afghanistan.

This article is based on information current in 2008.

    Published 19 June 2008, Updated 13 February 2015 Referencing Hub articles