For 50 years, NCAR has been charged by the National Science Foundation with providing observing facilities and associated services for the community of university atmospheric scientists, with emphasis on large and expensive facilities that are better provided centrally rather than by a single university group. This part of the NCAR charge now rests primarily with the Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL), which defines its mission to be:
To develop and deploy observing facilities and provide data services
needed to advance scientific understanding of the earth system.
When we wrote our Laboratory Strategic Plan in 2010 we framed our activities as a lab in the context of not only our mission statement but of our “Four D’s”: Development, Deployment, Data Services and Discovery. This annual report describes the efforts we undertook in 2010 to carry out the objectives described in our Strategic Plan.
EOL’s Development activities are described by Imperative III of our Strategic Plan: “Anticipate future needs resulting from changing priorities, aging equipment or emerging opportunities, and develop new technology (instrumentation, software, and infrastructure) to meet those needs.”
EOL's FY 2010 efforts in this area include NSF/NCAR Gulfstream V (GV) enhancements such as the design, installation, and certification of optical windows suitable for instruments such as the High Spectral Resolution Lidar. New technology development included the Laser Air Motion Sensor (LAMS), which measures the GV’s true air speed via laser remote sensing and the Holographic Detector of Clouds 2 (HOLODEC 2) which measures the size distribution of cloud particles within a large sample volume using ultraviolet laser holography. EOL continued our work to develop the next generation Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS) III Dropsonde system for installation on one of the Global Hawks as well as on the NSF/NCAR GV. This will have major positive impact on researchers' ability to take more accurate global warming and ozone depletion measurements, better predict hurricane tracking and landfall, and improve weather forecasting.
EOL's Frontiers in large part encompass Development efforts as well, though the focus is on emerging opportunities or developing needs in the Atmospheric Research Community that EOL will target for expansion. In FY 2010 EOL work in developing our Frontiers revolved around the development of a new Phased-Array Radar, a Modular Profiling Network, Driftsonde Development and the Front Range Observational Network Testbed (FRONT) that joins the forces of the NSF/NCAR S-Pol Radar and the CSU CHILL Radar.
Deployment activities in EOL encompass two separate Imperatives in our Strategic Plan: Imperative I, to “Maintain the EOL facilities that are deployed using NSF “deployment pool” funds so that they are ready for reliable and safe operation in anticipated field programs,” and Imperative II, “Support observing needs of research programs at a level that serves NSF, university, and NCAR program needs.”
The fulfillment of Imperative I drives countless of our day-to-day efforts to preserve and consistently improve the NSF Lower Atmospheric Observing Facilities (LAOF) resources with which we are entrusted and maintain their readiness for our vigorous deployment schedule. Imperative I also encompasses major upgrades that become necessary due to old technologies becoming obsolete or new technologies that promise increased efficacy of the instrument. In FY 2010 our NSF/NCAR C-130 underwent an extensive upgrade to its avionics package.
Central to EOL's mission to support the atmospheric research community is Imperative II. We describe six such field programs in the Imperative II section, including the second and third phase of the landmark HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO) Campaign which deploys the NSF/NCAR GV Research Aircraft in the first comprehensive, global survey of the distribution of greenhouse gases and black carbon in the atmosphere. EOL also participated in studies involving winter storms, tornadoes, and hurricane genesis.
EOL is committed to data processing, quality control, and archival for field projects as part of our expanding services that will be provided to the community, as expressed in Imperative IV, “Provide comprehensive data services, open access, and long-term stewardship of data.” This includes efforts to complete development of the Metadata Database and Cyberinfrastructure (EMDAC, formerly known as CODIAC) to access and browse products and data from field projects while integrating with the Community Data Portal.
EOL's Data mission encompasses real-time tools as well as the stewardship and accessibility to historical research data. An example of this is EOL's Mission Coordinator Display that was implemented for the first time during the PRE-Depression Investigation of Cloud-systems in the Tropics (PREDICT) in August and September 2010. This invaluable tool was developed to provide the onboard mission coordinator with storm hazard locations to safely navigate hazardous weather conditions - a necessity when studying the formation of hurricanes!
We take seriously our responsibility to promote curiosity about Earth science and to inspire development of the next generation of observational scientists and engineers. In FY 2010 we undertook a lot of activities in support of Imperative V, “Attract and inspire new generations of scientists, engineers and the general public to atmospheric science, conveying the excitement and intrinsic value of observational research.”
In FY 2010 we expanded our Field Project Education and Outreach offerings by hiring a specialist dedicated to developing and implementing comprehensive programs that include an online and social media presence, outreach and media events, and educational modules for educators to use in conjunction with the field projects. We conducted two EOL educational deployments to educators wishing to gain access to observational facilities for classroom instructions and hands-on learning. Finally, 2010 was another record year in terms of applicants for EOL’s Summer Undergraduate Engineering Internship Program, which focuses EOL’s outreach efforts on the engineering community in a manner analogous to what UCAR/NCAR currently does for young scientists.