Executive Summary

The ability to make observations of the atmosphere, Earth System, and Sun is fundamental to achieving the science goals of NSF, NCAR, and our scientific community. When established, NCAR was charged with providing for the community of atmospheric scientists observing facilities and services that are too large and expensive to be operated by a single university group and are thus best managed and operated centrally.  A significant portion of this charge to NCAR now rests 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.

EOL’s activities are framed in the context of our mission statement, and are further encapsulated in our “Four Ds”: Deployment, Development, Data Services and Discovery. This annual report describes the efforts we undertook in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 to carry out the objectives described in our Strategic Plan.



The NSF-funded Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) that EOL manages include research aircraft, ground-based and airborne remote sensing systems, vertical profiling systems, in situ sensing systems, and a number of individual instruments that can be deployed in conjunction with these larger systems.  EOL works continuously to maintain and improve these NSF LAOF with which we are entrusted, and to ensure their safe and reliable operation for deployment.  Several of these activities are described in Imperative I:  “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.” 

Deployments of those LAOF are encompassed in our Imperative II: “Support observing needs of research programs at a level that serves NSF, university, and NCAR program needs.”  In FY 2016, EOL deployed instrumentation to two NSF-approved field campaigns, one of which fell into the small/simple category (VERTEX), and one that was considered a complex/large project (ORCAS). EOL also supported one cost recovery project for NASA (OLYMPEX), two cost recovery projects for NOAA (SHOUT and MITTS), and two NSF-approved instrumentation tests on the NSF/NCAR aircraft (ARISTO 2016, SOCRATES Test).  These campaigns ranged from a few days to several months long, and put to use a variety of the NSF LAOF that EOL manages to support critical scientific work.    EOL’s work on these campaigns entailed direct support of more than 25 principal investigators from 40 institutions. Students ­– undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral – were directly involved in these field campaigns as well.  EOL’s deployments of the NSF LAOF in FY 2016 are described in the Imperative II section of this report.



EOL’s Strategic Plan Imperative III incorporates most of our Development activities: “Anticipate future needs resulting from changing priorities, aging equipment or emerging opportunities, and develop new technology (instrumentation, software, and infrastructure) to meet those needs.” In FY 2016 EOL conducted work on several high priority developments: CentNet, the mobile 449 MHz modular wind profiler, the Water Vapor Differential Absorption Lidar (WV DIAL), and the Airborne Phased Array Radar (APAR).

Other, longer-term and emerging EOL development efforts are contained in our Frontiers, which focus on promising opportunities or developing needs in the atmospheric science community that EOL could address. In FY 2016, EOL addressed some of our Frontiers by making progress on APAR; planning for a network of WV DIALs; installing a new environmental chamber for instrumentation calibration; and furthering CentNet's reach.


Data Services 

The end-to-end service that EOL provides to our scientific community includes data processing, quality control, and archival for field project data, and these facets of that service are expressed in our Imperative IV: “Provide comprehensive data services, open access, and long-term stewardship of data.”  This includes increased data stewardship activities; and collaboration with NCAR’s Computational Information Systems Laboratory (CISL) for improved data access; work to help ensure the discoverability of legacy data; new software tools for instrumentation; and furtherance of EarthCube initiatives.  



Activities under EOL’s Imperative V, to “Attract and inspire new generations of scientists, engineers and the general public to atmospheric science, conveying the excitement and intrinsic value of observational research,” show our commitment to promoting curiosity about atmosphere and Earth sciences and to inspiring the next generation of observational scientists and engineers.  In FY 2016, EOL conducted education and outreach activities for ORCAS, and continued two internship programs: the Summer Undergraduate Program for Engineering Research (SUPER), and our Technical Internship Program (TIP II).  EOL was also in the co-leadership of the science team for ORCAS, which focused on biogeochemical cycles over the Southern Ocean and on challenging predictions of the Earth System global model with observations collected during the campaign.