A Message from the Interim NCAR Director

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is one of the world’s premier scientific institutions. With a strong focus on the atmospheric and related sciences we have an internationally recognized staff and research program dedicated to advancing knowledge, providing community-based resources, and building human capacity. In this Annual Report, and in the accompanying Laboratory Reports, I invite you to learn more about NCAR, see how we are collaborating internally and with the worldwide research community to drive advances in our understanding of fundamental processes in our atmosphere and how the atmosphere interacts with, and is influenced by, other components of the Sun-Earth system. This progress is being driven, in part, by new technologies and their effective utilization at NCAR, including: advanced observing facilities for field studies and the Sun, powerful high-performance computing capabilities, valuable research data sets that describe the state of the Sun-Earth system, and widely used state-of-the-science community models that are providing improved capabilities for predictions of weather (including catastrophic events), air quality, hydrology, climate variability and change, and space weather. Important educational and technology transfer activities at NCAR continue to encourage outstanding young scientists into the field and bring new research and technical achievements into the public and private sectors.


The material presented in this Report is only a small sampling of the activities and accomplishments going on across the center at NCAR over the past year and reflects the considerable efforts of Dr. Jim Hurrell who retired from NCAR and the NCAR Directorship in August 2018. Jim’s career-long commitment to NCAR’s scientific program and his commitment to building capacity across the breadth of NCAR’s activities as Director was appreciated by many across the Center.

Please enjoy this Annual Report as a snapshot of recent NCAR competencies, facilities, and scientific accomplishments. Highlights across the imperative activities at NCAR include investigations in geoengineering simulation that permit scientists to investigate strategies to limit atmospheric warming and reduce its side effects. Studies of storm clusters in North America that are likely to be larger and more intense as climate changes, posing widespread flooding risks across the region. Research indicating that the improvements in US air quality have slowed over recent years and that it may be increasingly difficult for the Nation to achieve its ozone pollution goals. Numerous field campaigns took place globally over the past year, of note we’ve worked with the community to study wildfire smoke plumes with far-reaching effects on weather, air quality and climate, and the processes of cloud formation over the Southern Ocean. Process studies such as these will be captured in parameterizations like those that have seen the development and deployment of Version 2 of the Coupled Earth System Model which includes WACCM-X – a climate model that goes to the edge of space and enabled the first investigation of CO2’s impacts on the whole atmosphere. Further away, new modeling efforts have sought to understand the origins of the Sun’s activity “seasons” that could lead to better prediction of the solar storms at the heart of the global space weather initiative. Data science in the atmospheric sciences is starting to explore sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasting in weather and watersheds as climate is changing. The latter providing a critical decision-making tool for water managers.

Finally, we greatly miss the presence of our colleague and friend in Michael Thompson, who passed away on October 15th. Michael, working closely with his worldwide network of collaborators, significantly advanced our understanding of the Sun’s interior before turning his talents to organizational management over the last decade at the University of Sheffield in the UK, at HAO as Director (2010-2014), as Deputy Director of NCAR (2014-2018), and Interim President of UCAR (2015-2016). Michael’s steady approach, his patience, attention to detail, and general thoughtfulness will be missed by many across the Center and the broader NCAR/UCAR family.

Please accept my sincere thanks for your ongoing support and hard work.

With best wishes for 2019,

Scott McIntosh