2001 Annual Scientific Report
 


Director's Message

The past year has been one of exceptional activity and accomplishment, and while we share the country's grief and concern about the events of September 11, we also want to acknowledge the progress that we have made at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. We have completed an ambitious, far-reaching strategic plan for future research directions and initiated several of the highest priority activities outlined in that plan. We have been able to add to our human capital through a number of new hires in the early career scientist ranks. We have also been able to invest in two new community facilities through NSF's support. I have inaugurated an Advisory Council of preeminent scientists, educators, industry leaders and policy makers to provide advice and input on future directions for the Center. And at the end of this year, we successfully completed the NSF's review of our research programs, our outreach and support to the atmospheric sciences community, and our management. I would like to touch briefly on all of these topics below. I encourage you to read more about all of these activities in the pages below to get a sense of the full year we have just completed.

NCAR Strategic Plan

The NCAR Strategic Plan, NCAR as an Integrator, has been the work of the past 15 months. We developed a set of statements that describe our mission, vision, values and goals for the next decade, and using a 'grass roots', inclusive process, we engaged all of NCAR's scientific staff and many external collaborators in a reevaluation of directions and priorities. Participation by the NCAR scientific staff was extensive, and they, along with NCAR and UCAR management, the National Science Foundation and the UCAR Board of Trustees, reviewed various stages of the document as it progressed. The plan was also the topic of discussion at this year's UCAR Members' meeting during a forum that further identified opportunities for collaborations between NCAR and the university community. The plan can be accessed via the following link: http://www.ncar.ucar.edu/stratplan.

Scientist I Hires

We initiated a program to broaden and balance the demographics of NCAR's scientific staff with the addition of a number of early career scientists this past year. Our goals were to expand the intellectual capacity of the institution and to address diversity of ideas, approaches and background in our scientific staff. Through a national, competitive selection process headed by Al Cooper of the Advanced Study Program, over 170 applications for what were to originally be four positions were received. We felt that the caliber of the finalists was so exceptional that we extended offers to many more than originally planned. A total of nine new Scientist I's were hired; four of them are women. The research interests of our new scientists mesh extremely well with the initiatives outlined in our Strategic Plan, and they will complement and expand our efforts in a number of ways. A full description of the new NCAR Early Career Scientists and their interests can be found in a recent Staff Notes article: http://www.ucar.edu/communications/staffnotes/0108/future.html. Most of them will have arrived by the end of Fiscal Year 2001. We plan to begin a second round of hiring early in FY2002.

High Altitude Aircraft and Supercomputing

As the National Center, we have the responsibility to maintain the highest caliber of research tools and facilities to accelerate progress in our science. This year, NCAR acquired a new Advanced Research Computing System (ARCS) that doubled the Center's computing capacity and will quadruple it over the period of the acquisition. NCAR also received word that the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER) will be funded in 2002, allowing us to procure the airframe and begin modifications for the research community.

The ARCS system will provide a phased introduction of new computational, storage, and communications technologies through the life of the contract. This will allow NCAR's Scientific Computing Division to maintain a stable, state-of-the-art production facility for the next three to five years. More on this acquisition can be found at http://www.scd.ucar.edu/docs/asr2001/arcs.html.

The HIAPER aircraft will allow researchers to fly into the stratosphere and a quarter of the way around the earth, allowing scientists to study the upper troposphere, the tropopause region, and the lower stratosphere over much of the planet. Very few existing or planned research aircraft have the combination of HIAPER's range, payload, and altitude. A wide range of atmospheric scientists, from chemists to cloud physicists to climate modelers, need HIAPER's capabilities to advance their understanding of the climate system. Please look at the schematic of the proposed aircraft at http://www.atd.ucar.edu/dir_off/asr01/ASR01highlights.html.

NSF Review of NCAR Programs and UCAR/NCAR Management

As part of the management agreement between NSF and UCAR, all of NCAR's programs are reviewed on a 5-year cycle. Beginning in September and ending in November 2001, eight separate panels held on-site reviews of NCAR's divisions and programs (with the exception of the Research Applications Program which was reviewed as part of the management review). The panels considered the written materials prepared for them, anonymous mail reviews, and presentations by divisional staff on the accomplishments and plans for their scientific and technical programs.

This review process is beneficial both to the NCAR programs, giving staff the opportunity to present and describe their activities, and to NSF in exercising their oversight responsibilities. The reports by the individual panels provide evaluations of past performance and suggestions for the future. The panels found NCAR's programs to be uniformly excellent, productive, and vigorous. We are extremely pleased with this outcome, and will work to incorporate the thoughtful comments to extend and enhance the value of our programs. The management review was highly complimentary of the Strategic Plan and the NSF panel challenged us to take the national center concept "to a new level".

In all, this has been an exciting and rewarding year, and I believe that the Scientific Report for 2001 reflects this. I encourage you to explore the many project descriptions and their links, to learn more about NCAR's people, programs and accomplishments.

Tim Killeen
Director


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