With more than 40,000 earthquakes each year, volcanic eruptions every three months, more than 100,000 glaciers, the U.S. state of Alaska is an incredible natural laboratory of unique and bizarre atmospheric phenomena and spectacular auroras. The Geophysical Institute (GI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) observes a wide range of geophysical phenomena. The institute was created, by an act of Congress at the end of World War II, to study the aurora and ionospheric effects on communication and navigation systems in the subarctic. Since then the GI branched out to include research programs in: volcanology; seismology; tsunami modeling; tectonics and sedimentation; atmospheric science; snow, ice and permafrost; remote sensing; and space physics and aeronomy.
With 375 professors, staff and students the GI performs research into all of these phenomena, but is also home to several operational programs including the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), the Alaska Earthquake Center (AEC), the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF), the Wilson Alaska Technical Center (WATC), the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft System Integration (ACUASI), and the Poker Flat Research Range (PFRR) and the High frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Exploiting its high geographic latitude the GI downlinks data from polar orbiting synthetic aperture radar satellites and has the only university owned sounding rocket range to launch rockets through the aurora and out onto the polar cap. The GI recently acquired the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC), a former U.S. Department of Defense High Performance Computer and the Geographic Information Network for Alaska (GINA) which generates high resolution maps of Alaska from satellite data.