Director's Message

Scott W. McIntosh image
Scott W. McIntosh, HAO Director

It is my pleasure to present the 2014 Annual Report of the High Altitude Observatory (HAO), the solar-terrestrial physics laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). As an integral part of NCAR—through its research, leadership, and service to the community—HAO strives toward an understanding of the Earth’s ongoing interaction with the Sun’s atmosphere in which we are immersed.

HAO has a broad group of stakeholders: the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other government agencies; the world-wide solar-terrestrial physics community (including the solar physics, heliospheric physics, magnetospheric physics, and upper-atmospheric physics communities); higher education facilities; the rest of NCAR and UCAR; our own staff, visitors, and students; and the wider public. In support of these stakeholders, HAO has a number of goals: to perform world-leading science; to provide scientific leadership and facilities to the wider community; to support the education and training of early-career researchers; and to provide advocacy for solar-terrestrial physics, promoting its results, and articulating its societal importance.

A perennial strength of HAO lies in its broad program—conducting essential studies of solar radiative, particulate, and eruptive phenomena and their interaction with the terrestrial atmosphere. Our domain straddles the deep solar interior and the origins of heliospheric magnetism, through the Sun’s photosphere and chromosphere, into the corona and interplanetary space, to the magnetosphere and the upper atmosphere of the Earth—more than 93 million miles of parameter space. This report showcases just some of the outstanding work that has been accomplished by our team over the past year in these areas and, while it is not intended to be comprehensive, it covers the spectrum of education, instrumentation, modeling, and observational efforts that we pursue.

Over the past year HAO has seen a transition in leadership. Following Michael Thompson’s promotion to NCAR Deputy Director (and Chief Operating Officer) in October of 2013, Gang Lu took over as interim HAO director and continued in that role until the end of September 2014. Gang’s selfless dedication, fairness, and wisdom in leadership and oversight of HAO during the directorial transition is appreciated by all and especially by me. Having been chosen as the ninth director of HAO, I can honestly say that it is truly an honor and a privilege, and I am greatly excited about the opportunities that we have ahead of us as we stride the path forward together.

Also over the reporting year, several colleagues have gained promotions: Roberto Casini was promoted to senior scientist; Qian Wu was promoted to project scientist IV (the first in HAO); Giuliana de Toma and Wenbin Wang were promoted to project scientist III; and Ben Berkey was promoted to Associate Scientist II. I pass on my sincere congratulations to each of these staff members in recognition of their effort and commitment to the Observatory, the Center, and to the broader community.

Sadly, it is also time to say farewell (for now) to Vic Tisone and Teresa Rivas. These two characters have been part of the HAO family for 46 and 39 years, respectively, and have contributed an immeasurable amount in all aspects of what we do. Both will be greatly missed around the halls (and around the lunch table), although they are welcome to visit any time that they want.

There are many landmark activities in the coming year, but two are very prominent in my eyes. Early in the new year we will revise our strategic plan with goals to push forward on scientific frontiers and to build even stronger connections between HAO and its sister laboratories within NCAR. More importantly, it is also a year where we celebrate our 75th birthday! We are planning a three-day symposium September 1–3, 2015, in which we will celebrate HAO’s people, its considerable accomplishments, embrace its relationship with the U.S. solar-terrestrial community, and lay the foundations for our solar-terrestrial physics laboratory of the future. It promises to be a tremendous opportunity to renew old friendships and build new ones as we push for the century. I am already looking forward to providing an overview of our new strategic plan and the year’s landmark festivity in next year’s annual report.

Finally, I will add that the endeavors described herein would not have been possible without the tremendous effort put into the laboratory by our Administrative Team, Computer Systems Management Team, and others who unfalteringly work in service of the laboratory, center, and stakeholders.