Director's Message

Dear Colleagues:

Greg Holland - Interim Director, NCAR Earth System Laboratory
Jim Hurrell - Director, NCAR Earth System Laboratory

FY 2011 was a year of contrasts. It was a year in which the NCAR Earth System Laboratory reached full stride with Jim Hurrell as our first permanent Director. It was a year of considerable scientific achievements and improvements to our community modeling facilities. Yet it was also a year of substantial staff impacts from an accumulation of several years of difficult budgetary and programmatic times.

Our goals for the establishment of NESL as a strong and flexible laboratory have been achieved. The executive and administrative structure and our strategic plan provide an efficient and flexible capacity for us to develop major initiatives and to respond to both opportunities and difficulties that arise. This structure was endorsed by the NSF Scientific Visit Team (SVT) who commented that it “create(s) synergy across NESL’s three divisions, across NCAR’s laboratories, and between NCAR/UCAR and the university community such as to make the whole much greater than the sum of the parts.”

Thanks to your efforts NESL was presented as a strong and viable laboratory, one that embodies all of the principles set forth in the “blue book” that founded NCAR. As the SVT commented: “Never in NCAR’s ~50-year history have the staff in the divisions that now make up NESL shared a stronger sense of purpose”. We are proud of our scientific leadership and accomplishment, the development and maintenance of major community modeling facilities, our highly successful visitor program, our record of community collaboration (international and domestic), and our continuing commitment to scientific evolution and facility development. Again from the SVT: “The SVT considers NESL’s community modeling effort, culminating in the CESM, the WRF, and the WACCM to be among NCAR’s greatest achievements in its nearly 40-year history”.

But the review also identified weaknesses including one recommendation that we “consider the possibility of reshaping and reinvigorating the various in situ chemical measurements projects currently housed in ACD to create a more coherent program that is closely aligned with the interests of the university community”. Here, NESL responded quickly and positively, not just to consider the possibility, but to take constructive action to establish a major community chemistry facility that is expected to mature into a major NCAR activity in support of science and community needs.

As we look to the future, NESL must continue and enhance efforts to develop strategic and stronger partnerships and to seek broad community input into evolving and implementing its strategic imperatives, frontiers and other new research initiatives. This input will be central to ensuring NESL maintains transformative research, works synergistically with the academic community, and strikes the best balance possible between growth into new scientific areas and sustaining excellence in existing core activities. It is also more important than ever for NESL to embrace a leadership role and more actively engage with community leaders, research agencies, professional organizations, policy makers and others to convey significant research findings and to emphasize the importance of investment in research and major facility development. While the science credentials of NESL are well known within much of the scientific community, there are clear requirements for communicating the science more broadly and, thereby, enhancing its visibility to fellow researchers, stakeholders and the general public.

Finally, given significant financial challenges, and the reality that the increasing sophistication of computing and observing capabilities will continue to stress funding for scientific research, NESL must strive to enhance synergy and collaboration and ensure increased NCAR internal collaboration to achieve and maintain world leadership in its priority areas. Further enhancement of such collaborative efforts and development of new ones that bring NCAR-wide perspectives and experience to new and exciting challenges are critical to NESL maintaining and expanding its core activities and fulfilling its leadership role.

Greg Holland and Jim Hurrell