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ESSL LAR 2008: Director's Message

Dear Colleagues:


Guy Brasseur
NCAR Associate Director
Director, Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory

The Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory (ESSL) was established in October 2004 to develop an ambitious research program and to address some of the fundamental scientific questions that are directly related to major environmental challenges the world is facing. The overall objective of the Laboratory is to perform fundamental studies of the dynamics of the Earth and Sun Systems across spatial and temporal scales, and to assess how natural forcing and human-driven perturbations affect the evolution of the Earth's Systems and ultimately the habitability of our planet.

By performing an integrated study of the Earth and Sun Systems and the changes occurring in these systems, ESSL will provide key knowledge needed to develop a sustainable future for humankind and to respond to environmental crises such as climate change. Specifically, the Laboratory will study the fundamental processes that determine the evolution of the Earth and Sun Systems, develop the tools and community facilities needed to observe and analyze these processes, and to predict their evolution. This requires a full understanding of the processes that determine the variations in the Sun's radiative energy, of the mechanisms that determine the effects of solar radiation on the Earth's environment as well as of the interactions that exist between the physical, biological and chemical processes in the coupled atmosphere, land and ocean system. The ultimate goal is to acquire the fundamental knowledge necessary to respond to global and regional environmental changes and to help societies to develop a sustainable future.

The Earth and Sun Systems laboratory (ESSL) includes four scientific Divisions (the Atmospheric Chemistry Division (ACD), the Climate and Global Dynamics Division (CGD), the High Altitude Observatory (HAO), and the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division (MMM)) as well as the Institute for Integrative and Multidisciplinary Earth Studies (TIIMES).

As you will notice from the different detailed web pages that constitute the 2009 Annual Report, ESSL scientists accomplished a lot of exciting science in the last year. Substantial progress has been made in the development of the Community climate System Model (CCSM), and a new and improved version of this complex model will provide new climate projections for the next assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

The development of the Weather and Research Forecast Model (WRF) has continued; this model is now used in many countries as a community tool by a large number of researchers in academic institutions and by operational weather forecast centers. New, exciting results are emerging from the observations made during the field campaign in Mexico City (MIRAGE/MILAGRO). The purpose of this project was to characterize the chemical/physical transformations and the ultimate fate of pollutants exported from large urban areas, and to assess the current and future impacts of these exported pollutants on regional and global air quality, ecosystems, and climate.

TllMES was created to conduct and promote Earth science research across disciplines. The Institute promotes interactions for new and current initiatives associated with multidisciplinary Earth studies to be fostered, grown, and integrated. Beside managing cross-divisional Projects with large university participation, including the Biogeosciences initiative, the project on Water Across Scales, the Upper Troposphere/Lower Stratosphere initiative, and THORPEX, an international program aimed at improving weather forecasts, TIIMES started to plan for a major multidisciplinary field and modeling study called BEACHON, whose purpose is to better quantify the interactions between the physical climate and the biogeochemical systems in a water-limited environment.

ESSL has, of course, great plans for the future. In 2009, priority themes have been identified by the Laboratory:

The Earth as a System

  • Prediction Across Scales and Earth Teleconnections
    • Decadal Global and Regional Climate Prediction
    • Nested Regional Climate Modeling
    • Towards Earth System Modeling
  • Hydrosphere-Biosphere Interactions
  • Polar Dynamics: Ice and Chemical Composition

The Sun as a System

  • Towards an Integrated Model of the Sun
  • Space Weather

In addition, the development of version 4 of the CCSM in preparation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 5 (IPCC AR5) is on the agenda of the Laboratory. Another important priority is the development of a Nested Regional Climate Model (NRCM) to study the seamless transition between weather and climate processes. Implementation of field observations such as BEACHON, addressing interdisciplinary questions, including the interactions between dynamical, chemical, radiative and microphysical processes in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere are also important priorities for the next years. Using field observations to improve model formulations and parameterizations is a key aspect of our research.

Guy P. Brasseur
NCAR Associate Director
Director, Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory