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Director's Message

Tim Killeen - NCAR Director

I am very pleased to report on our activities over the past year at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). By any token, this has been an exciting year with successful field campaigns, the release of and progress on community models, dramatic advances in our supercomputing capabilities and the contractor's completion of the airframe for the new National Science Foundation research aircraft. We have also made significant steps in the implementation of our strategic plan and in our continuing efforts to broaden and balance the demographics of NCAR's scientific staff -- we look forward to the arrival of 12 new Scientists I in 2003. We were also very busy hosting visitors and guests for two meetings of the NCAR Advisory Council, as well as more than 70 scientific workshops and symposia covering topics such as instrumentation for the new research aircraft, carbon sources and sinks, weather modeling verification, cyber-infrastructure for environmental research and education, megacity impacts on regional and global environments, geographic information systems, and the ASP summer colloquium on aerosols, to name just a few.

As I reported to you last year, NSF conducted a thorough review of all NCAR divisions and UCAR and NCAR management. After the successful review, NSF decided not to compete the next cooperative agreement for the management and operation of NCAR and invited UCAR to submit a proposal for the management of NCAR for another five years. After we submitted our proposal in early October 2002, NSF distributed the proposal for an anonymous peer review and conducted a site review in December 2002.

As you page through the Annual Scientific Report for 2002, you will see we are working hard to implement our strategic plan through cross-divisional initiatives and with the National Science Foundation and our university partners. Below are just a few highlights; you can learn more about these and other activities throughout the report.

Implementation of Our Strategic Plan

When I last reported to you, we had just completed the NCAR Strategic Plan, NCAR as an Integrator. That document sets forth our mission, vision, values and goals for the next decade. We have moved into the implementation phase for the Strategic Plan and have started work on several high priority scientific initiatives, with the strong support and involvement of the university community. These new initiatives include new efforts in weather and climate modeling, biogeosciences, the water cycle across scales, data assimilation, coronal magnetic fields and space weather modeling, geographic information systems, geophysical turbulence, climate and weather assessment science, and wildfire research. These efforts, now entering their third year of funding, have made real progress in developing and maintaining collaborative research activity across divisions and with increasing university partner participation. We have also instituted a mentoring element to the initiative process that fosters further collaboration among the strategic initiative leads and the NCAR Directors.

Progress on Community Models

In 2002, NCAR released a new version of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM-2) after more than two years of preparation involving many NCAR and community scientists. Some of the improvements of CCSM2 are an improved longwave radiation and cloud scheme and an improved prognostic cloud water formulation in the atmosphere component (CAM), an improved anisotropic horizontal viscosity formulation and an increase in horizontal resolution in the ocean component, a new elastic-viscous-plastic ice rheology in the sea ice component, and a new biogeophysics formulation and a river runoff scheme in the land component. The CCSM-2 will be used to contribute to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, due in 2007.

Similarly, with partners from many agencies and institutions, we have developed and released the beta version of the new Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, which has been downloaded by more than 1000 scientists worldwide. The WRF model and assimilation system will incorporate advanced numerics and data assimilation techniques, a multiple relocatable nesting capability, and improved physics, particularly for treatment of convection and mesoscale precipitation. It will also incorporate a new software framework that provides a modular, flexible, single-source code for use across diverse computing architectures. WRF is expected to set a new standard for the integration of research and operational forecast models, and to promote closer ties between the research and operational forecasting communities. The WRF is scheduled to become an operational model for both NOAA and DOD agencies in 2004.

Finally, with funding from NASA, we and our partners have started work on the development of a new Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF), which has the potential to revolutionize numerical simulation of climate, weather, and space weather, by providing a common modeling infrastructure designed for code reuse and enabling extensive interoperability of software components.

HIAPER and Supercomputing

We have continued to support the university community through the provision of research infrastructure and facilities. Atmospheric scientists using NCAR's supercomputing facility have already benefited greatly from the Advanced Research Computing System (ARCS) augmentation, which has brought the total computing capability to the level of approximately 9 Teraflops, peak (read more). The latest NCAR computer system, termed "Bluesky", has now passed its acceptance review and is on line for our users.

HIAPER (High-performance, Instrumented Platform for Environmental Research) In early June 2002, the completed HIAPER "green" (basic) airframe rolled off the Gulfstream assembly line in Savannah, Georgia. In July, Gulfstream transferred the green aircraft to Lockheed Martin's modification facility in Greenville, South Carolina where the aircraft will now reside until its completion and delivery to UCAR in October 2004. The NSF-led HIAPER Community Instrumentation Workshop took place at NCAR from November 4-6, 2002 where participants worked to identify the science thrusts and types of measurements for the HIAPER platform, ensure that the broad research community has a clear understanding of the HIAPER airframe and its basic infrastructure, and discuss the upcoming NSF Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for HIAPER research instrumentation development.

IHOP Field Campaign

In May and June of 2002, the International H20 Project (IHOP) took place in the Southern Great Plains of Oklahoma, Kansas, and the Texas Panhandle. While data analysis will continue for many years, NCAR researchers have already identified two potential dramatic impacts of the IHOP 2002 efforts in improvements in nowcasting convective activity and nocturnal convection. The primary objective of this campaign was to characterize the four-dimensional distribution of water vapor in the lower atmosphere, and apply this improved understanding to the study and prediction of convection initiation. The primary scientific objectives of IHOP consisted of the study of convective initiation, boundary layer heterogeneity and evolution, morning and evening low-level jet, and prefrontal Bore events. The project was also motivated in part by the impact of flash floods on society, which in the US cause billions of dollars in property damage and the largest number of weather-related fatalities. You can read more about this project in this report.

Prominence Magnetic Fields

At NCAR, scientists have made exciting new Solar prominence magnetic field observations using the Advanced Stokes Polarimeter at the Dunn Solar Telescope. This is the first time that prominence magnetic fields have been observed simultaneously in all four Stokes parameters, with a spectral range of 20 Angstrom encompassing three magnetically sensitive lines with coverage all the way down to the solar limb. Preliminary results confirmed previous evidence that the prominence is permeated with mostly horizontal fields. These preliminary results are dramatic because initial broadband analysis of the polarization signatures suggests that the fields in the prominence feet are horizontal and brings into question some solar models requiring vertical fields. Images and detailed information about these results is available in this report.

This has been an exciting and rewarding year, and I believe that the Scientific Report for 2002 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