State-of-the-art, accurate observations and measurements of the atmosphere and other parts of the Earth system continue to be the driver for scientific discovery and impetus for advances in geosciences. Such observations are also critical inputs for the robust performance and continued development of weather, climate, and chemistry models.  Therefore, EOL's first Imperative is the maintenance of NSF-funded Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) for research in atmospheric science, with emphasis on systems that are beyond the capabilities of most universities or smaller groups.

Manage LAOF

EOL conducts countless day-to-day efforts to preserve and consistently improve the NSF LAOF resources that are entrusted to NCAR, and to maintain readiness for a vigorous deployment schedule. In the run-up to each field campaign, all instruments undergo exhaustive testing by EOL engineers and technicians to ensure optimal campaign performance. After the field phase commences, it often becomes necessary to make adjustments or upgrades to overcome difficult or unforeseen environmental conditions in order to meet scientific objectives. Then, upon completion of the field phase, calibrations, repairs and reconditioning are often required to maintain instrumentation readiness state for the next activity. The activities described below are a sampling of these efforts for FY 2018.

GV 16-Year Inspection

FY 2018 marked 16 years since the NSF/NCAR GV has been off the production line and it was time for the aircraft to undergo a comprehensive inspection. The inspection included stripping off the aircraft paint for a comprehensive corrosion inspection, taking apart the wings, and disassembling the tail. Every part of the airplane was inspected including the landing gear, the cockpit, and the sub-floor systems. The inspection took seven weeks to complete and there were no major findings. The NSF/NCAR returned to its home base in May 2018 with a new livery design, shown below. 

NSF/NCAR GV with new livery design
NSF/NCAR GV with new livery design

RAF Hangar Clean-up

In FY 2018, RAF undertook a significant cleanup and organization effort for the two hangars at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (RMMA). RAF staff spent time sorting through a large number of relics - from old paper records to obsolete aircraft parts - that have been accumulating over many years, and recycled, disposed and digitized. The resultant better organized storage space and shelving promote ease of access to parts, better inventory, and open space for the frequently needed equipment, such as instrument racks and instrumentation. 

PRESTO (Project REqueSTs Online)

EOL teamed up with the XSEDE Resource Allocation Service (XRAS), located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), to implement a web-based, integrated documentation handling system for requesting Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities. The goal of this effort is to provide improved interfaces for submission, review, and administration of LAOF facility requests and streamline the process that is currently rather time consuming.

Deploy LAOF in NSF-funded Observational Field Campaigns

Field program planning and implementation is a critical community service, and EOL’s efforts here are part of NCAR’s Strategic Imperative to provide observational facilities that meet the science community’s needs. EOL employs and trains project staff, assists principal investigators (PIs) with project planning and preparation, supports observing programs by operating facilities and instruments, and preserves quality of collected data for decades in support of research and field programs worldwide. EOL enables science for each campaign’s PIs through this support, and, when we are a science lead or participant, directly engages in that science. EOL provided field program planning, implementation and/or support for the following NSF-funded campaigns in FY 2018:

  • Southern Ocean Clouds, Radiation, Aerosol Transport Experimental Study (SOCRATES)
  • Instabilities, Dynamics and Energetics accompanying Atmospheric Layering (IDEAL)
  • The Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX)
  • Remote sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO)
  • Western wildfire Experiment for Cloud chemistry, Aerosol absorption and Nitrogen (WE-CAN)
  • Stable Air Variability and Transport (SAVANT)

In FY 2018, EOL’s work on these campaigns entailed direct support of 42 scientists, 72 graduate and 34 undergraduate students, and the science teams for these campaigns came from 40 different institutions.  EOL staff spent over 3,200 days in the field in support of these projects. 


The Southern Ocean Clouds, Radiation, Aerosol Transport Experimental Study (SOCRATES) took place from January 15, 2018 to February 26, 2018, and based in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.  This large international multi-agency effort was conducted to improve our understanding of clouds, aerosols, air-sea exchanges, and their interactions over the Southern Ocean.

The Southern Ocean is the stormiest place on Earth, buffeted by winds and waves that circle the ice of Antarctica, sheathed in clouds that mantle a dynamic ocean with rich ecosystems. The remote and usually pristine environment, typically removed from anthropogenic and natural continental aerosol sources makes the Southern Ocean unique for examining cloud-aerosol interactions for liquid and ice clouds, and the role of primary and secondary marine biogenic aerosols and sea-salt. Weather and climate models are challenged by uncertainties and biases in the simulation of Southern Ocean clouds, aerosols, precipitation, and radiation which trace to poor physical understanding of these processes, and by cloud feedbacks (e.g., phase changes) in response to warming. Models almost universally underestimate sunlight reflected by near surface cloud in the Austral summer, particularly in the cold sector of cyclonic storm systems, possibly due to difficulties in representing pervasive supercooled and mixed-phase boundary layer clouds.

SOCRATES used several of EOL facilities.  The NSF/NCAR GV carried the HIAPER Cloud Radar (HCR), the High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL) and the AVAPS dropsonde system.  One NCAR Integrated Sounding System was installed on the Australian R/V Investigator, Australia’s only deep-ocean research vessel, operated by the Marine National Facility, where staff launched radiosondes and took wind profiler measurements.

This successful project left the science team excited about delving into the rich and varied dataset collected by the GV and R/V Investigator (with the ISS onboard). Highlights from the campaign include:

  • Fifteen research flights totalling 118 hours conducted over the Southern Ocean, a region not previously well sampled by research aircraft. +
  • For the first time, the HCR and HSRL shared a single operator to allow space for additional research instrumentation on the aircraft.   
  • Safe operations in an environment containing severe icing and turbulence along with salt spray at low levels. The safety plan developed by RAF, which included briefings for the pilots, diligent inspections by RAF personnel, and the presence of a mission coordinator on all flights, kept the aircraft safely operating.
  • An airborne payload that functioned well throughout the project, resulting in few data losses from instrument outages. Successful data were collected from HCR, HSRL and AVAPS, which successfully launched a total of 109 sondes.
  • The first deployment for ISF at sea of the upgraded LapXM radar wind profiler and the ZephIR wind provider. This was also the first shipborne deployment of the new RS41 systems with 234 sondes launched. All three instruments performed very well considering the harsh conditions on a research vessel in the Southern Ocean.
  • A Media Day and Open House that saw over 250 people visit the NSF/NCAR GV at Hobart Airport along with coverage of the project on local television.


The Instabilities, Dynamics and Energetics accompanying Atmospheric Layering (IDEAL) project was a study of stratified layers in the nighttime stable atmosphere and their interaction


with wind shear, gravity waves, turbulence and mixing. The campaign took place at the Army's Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. IDEAL was the first deployment of EOL’s new MW41 sounding system that uses RS41 radiosondes, which worked very well with 90 radiosondes launched over the 25 day campaign, including one night with a record eight radiosondes in under four hours.  IDEAL was also the first full deployment of the upgraded LapXM 915 MHz wind profiler system.  Non-EOL facilities participating in the project included the University of Colorado DataHawk UAS, the CU tethersonde system, and the Dugway mesonet. The campaign occurred from October 23 to November 15, 2017, and the project PI team consisted of Dave Fritts at GATS Inc. and Dale Lawrence at the University of Colorado.


Land use, land cover and subsequent changes (LULCC) play an important role in weather and climate systems. Observations and modeling studies suggest that LULCC impacts meso- regional, and potentially global-scale atmospheric circulations, temperature, precipitation, and fluxes. The Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX) investigated the impacts of the rapid commencement irrigation and subsequent sustained irrigation on the evolution of planetary boundary layer atmosphere in a region of the Central Great Plains, specifically in Nebraska. This project, which took place from May 30, 2018 to July 30, 2018, deployed 12 Integrated Surface Flux Systems (ISFS) along with 2 Integrated Sounding Systems. The Center for Severe Weather Research also deployed three mobile radars, and partner University of Alabama-Huntsville deployed 74 weather stations across the project's domain.

GRAINEX instrumentation sites


RELAMPAGO logoThe Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations is a large, complex, international deployment that began in FY2018 and will continue into FY 2019.  Taking place in west central Argentina in the general vicinity of the Sierras de Córdoba (SDC) near Córdoba and the Andes foothills near Mendoza, the campaign has two phases, with an Extended Hydrometeorology Observing Period (EHOP) from 1 June 2018 – 30 April 2019 and an Intensive Observing Period (IOP) from 1 November – 15 December 2018. A dry run campaign was conducted in November 2017. RELAMPAGO will provide unique observations of atmospheric and surface conditions in a region with substantial terrain and explore a regime of convection not observed comprehensively. 

The EHOP overlaps with some portions of the U.S. Department of Energy's Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) campaign, and the RELAMPAGO campaign is a collaborative project funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Servicio Meteorologico Nacional (SMN), Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Argentina (MinCyT), Province of Cordoba, Brazil (INPE, CNPq, and FAPESP), and INVAP, S.E.

EOL has deployed 15 ISFS towers and the Micropulse DIAL (MPD) to RELAMPAGO, joining radars and other sensing systems from the Center for Severe Weather research, and the entities above.  


Understanding the chemistry in western wildfire smoke has major ramifications for air quality, nutrient cycles, weather and climate. The Western wildfire Experiment for Cloud chemistry, Aerosol absorption and Nitrogen project systematically characterized the emissions and first day of evolution of western U.S. wildfire plumes, focusing on three sets of scientific questions related to fixed nitrogen, absorbing aerosols, cloud activation and chemistry in wildfire plumes. The data were collected from the NSF/NCAR C-130 research aircraft, based out of Boise, ID, from 22 July to 31 August 2018. The research campaign was followed by an educational component from 1 to 14 September 2018 in Broomfield, Colorado. The project was led by Principal Investigators from Colorado State University, the University of Washington, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Montana, and the University of Wyoming. U.S. Federal Agency collaborators include NOAA and NASA. WE-CAN generated several news articles and stories.




Stable surface boundary layers (SBL) occur more than one-half the total time in mid-latitudes, yet our knowledge of the complexity of the near surface drainage and converging flows


associated with stable conditions is very limited. Surface emissions produced in stable conditions are difficult to predict and display seemingly erratic high-concentration "clumps" which stay near the ground. These effects are seen in even shallow topographic conditions Some studies have measured converging background and drainage flows in mountain areas, however, few studies have examined this in less dramatic, but more common, topographic areas. In general, transport models and field sampling systems have not been adapted to converging flows. To address this, the goal of the Stable Air Variability and Transport (SAVANT) experiment was to quantify the effects of converging shallow cold air drainage and background flow on aerosols transport and dispersion. EOL deployed ISFS and ISS systems in support of SAVANT and the campaign occurred from September 15, 2018 to November 15, 2018 in Urbana, IL. The National Science Foundation's story on SAVANT  described the importance of this work to air quality and crop yields.