ACOM Director's Message

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ACOM Director David Edwards

Welcome to the 2016 Laboratory Annual Report (LAR) for the Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling (ACOM) Laboratory. This report highlights some examples of the exceptional work and scientific community leadership carried out by ACOM staff during the last fiscal year. This research significantly furthers the ACOM mission of developing predictive capability for atmospheric composition, through advances in understanding of chemistry and related processes.

The report is organized according to the six Imperatives of the NCAR Strategic Plan. The research in ACOM particularly emphasizes the quantitative integration of atmospheric chemistry observations and modeling across scales, to identify impacts on weather, climate and air quality, and to assess the role of chemistry within the coupled Earth system. As such, the Laboratory makes important contributions to Imperative 2, that concentrates on observations, and Imperative 3, focused on modeling atmospheric chemistry, data assimilation and developing capability for predicting composition. On the observations side, activities related to ACCORD (Atmospheric Chemistry Center for Observational Research and Data) are discussed, along with highlights of this year’s ACOM participation in field campaigns such as ATom, PROPHET, ORCAS and KORUS-AQ. With respect to modeling, there have been advances across scales, from the process level with TUV, through regional scale atmospheric chemistry described with WRF-Chem, to the whole-atmosphere representation in WACCM.

Many of the important scientific advances that ACOM contributes to Imperative 1 on fundamental research come from the analysis of measurements using models and the improvement and development of model parameterizations based on observations. This report discusses some recent model comparisons of measurements from past field campaigns, such as MILAGRO in 2006 (1.4 Non-linear partitioning and organic volatility distributions of urban aerosols) and DC3 in 2012 (1.5 Transport of Soluble Trace Gases in Thunderstorms). Other examples, such as 1.6 Evaluating stratospheric temperature trends in WACCM and 1.8 Emergence of healing in the Antarctic ozone layer illustrate work from ACOM’s model analysis of satellite data.

ACOM scientists work closely with national and international researchers, teachers, students and decision makers, providing intellectual leadership and support for community measurement capabilities, laboratory and field experiments, and atmospheric chemistry models. In this way, the Laboratory acts as a nexus for the community, welcoming collaborators for short and extended visits, and hosting meetings. The latter are exemplified by descriptions of just a few of the workshops organized by ACOM this year. Some of these, such as the 6.3 NCAR/ASP 2016 Summer Colloquium focus on educational aspects of our program, while others demonstrate scientific leadership in bringing together researchers at the forefront of a particular topic.

In the coming year, ACOM will continue to work closely with the other NCAR laboratories, UCAR, and our external stakeholders to ensure that our research and facility support is optimally positioned to provide leadership and meet the needs of the wider community. To this end, ACOM is embarking on an intensive period of strategic planning. This is motivated in part by the dismantling the NCAR Earth System Laboratory (NESL) in 2015, and the promotion of the former Atmospheric Chemistry Division (ACD) to the status of an NCAR Laboratory in the form of ACOM. ACOM is also embracing the charge set forth in the recently published National Academies report on the Future of Atmospheric Chemistry Research. This report called on NCAR/ACOM to define a new strategy such “that the research capabilities and facilities at NCAR serve a unique and essential role to the NSF atmospheric chemistry community”. By the Summer of 2017, ACOM will have a new Strategic Plan that will guide our program for the next several years.

David Edwards