2011 Annual Report


A Message from the Director

Roger Wakimoto

This is the time of year where things slow down momentarily, giving me a chance to take a look back at the previous year’s work, even as efforts for Fiscal Year 2012 move ahead. Both the community and NCAR continue making notable scientific achievements.

Critical to NCAR’s efforts to serve the university community are our leaders. In 2011 two of our labs – the Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) and the NCAR Earth System Laboratory (NESL) – both gained new directors, Vanda Grubišić and Jim Hurrell, respectively. In addition, Michael Thompson became the High Altitude Observatory’s director in July 2010. After 23 years, Rick Anthes has stepped down from his role as president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). While Rick will continue in his scientific endeavors, I’d like to thank him for his years of effort on behalf of NCAR, UCAR, the National Science Foundation, and the university community. I would also like to welcome Tom Bogdan, who begins as UCAR president in early January 2012. I look forward to the years to come working with these new team members.

Other exciting news includes finalization of the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) construction and commissioning, completed in October 2011, on schedule and within the planned budget for the project. At the start of operations in 2012, NWSC will house one of the world’s fastest supercomputers for scientific research, as well as a premier data archival facility that will preserve valuable research data including extensive climate history records. With the last two missions flown this summer, the HIAPER Pole-to-Pole experiment comes to an end. This multi-university, multi-institution, multi-agency effort led by Harvard, generated an extraordinarily detailed mapping of the global distribution of greenhouse gases, black carbon and related chemical species in the atmosphere. Congratulations to all involved on the effort to create this rich set of observations.

Congratulations are also due to the EOL team led by Terry Hock, which received recognition from John Hickenlooper, Colorado’s Governor, for innovative dropsonde technology created and refined over the past five years. The 2011 Colorado Governor's Award for High-Impact Research recognizes outstanding research that will change the quality of life for people here and all over the world. Also of note is work done by the Research Applications Laboratory’s wind energy team, which worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Xcel Energy to provide highly detailed, localized weather forecasts to help Xcel’s wind energy production. The forecasts enabled the utility to better integrate electricity generated from wind into the power grid, in particular by helping plant operators decide when to power down traditional coal and natural gas plants and rely on wind energy instead, in the process saving rate payers millions of dollars.

Continuing our focus on helping educate the next generation of scientists, the Integrated Science Program (ISP) ran a 2-week colloquium on African weather and climate. The colloquium brought together students and researchers working on climate and weather issues in Africa, with a focus on learning how to use remote sensing, numerical simulation and prediction, statistical data analysis, and visualization tools to address scientific questions. The Advanced Study Program’s (ASP) Statistical Assessment of Extreme Weather Phenomena under Climate Change included 100 participants – including students, lecturers, and researchers – visited NCAR over a three-week period. Expanded from two weeks, the extra week allowed students more time to work on hands-on projects, and added a topical Research Colloquium during the middle week, in which researchers had a rare opportunity to engage in five days of discussion with other experts in the field of extreme value theory. The ASP also ran a student workshop that coincided with the Denver-based World Climate Research Programme’s open science conference, which brought together for the first time ever its entire research community.

In addition to the news above, NCAR and our community participated in many other notable scientific efforts. Please take time to read the suite of stories that comprise the 2010 NCAR Annual Report for details on these projects and many other exciting research efforts occurring in 2010. I encourage you to see the annual reports created by each of our Laboratories, Programs and our Observatory. These provide a further variety and breadth of details on 2011 work.

With best wishes for 2012 and sincere thanks for your ongoing support, and the hard work of the past year,