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 2019.

A New Research Aviation Facility

The architectural plans for a new Research Aviation Facility in Broomfield, CO were completed in FY 2019. UCAR will complete the design and construction of this state-of-the-art building by September 2020. The facility will provide meeting and laboratory space for researchers from around the world to collaborate with EOL and NCAR on airborne instrumentation, field campaigns, and data analysis. The video below is a virtual walkthrough of a mockup of the new space. 

Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC)

The NSF/NCAR GV aircraft and a crew of EOL staff, jointly with scientists and students from several US and Costa Rica universities, deployed to Liberia, Costa Rica in August and September 2019. The project focused on the propagation of easterly waves across the Central American region. The GV flew several patterns in the Caribbean and off the coast of Nicaragua and Colombia, studying the formation, evolution and dissipation of convective systems in the region. In addition to dropping over 600 dropsondes, the GV collected remote sensing data using NCAR’s HIAPER Cloud Radar (HCR).

OTREC participants from the University of Washington, New Mexico Tech, Rutgers University and the University of Costa Rica also launched radiosondes from the ground at three locations in Costa Rica, and installed a network of ground-based meteorological stations in the mountainous regions of the country. These networks captured relevant meteorological data throughout the airborne deployment period, providing the climatological background for the project. 

The OTREC field deployment was complicated by mechanical issues with the GV but all research objectives were still successfully completed. The HCR saw ~99% up time during OTREC, and collected unprecedented data that can be used to investigate kinematic and microphysical properties of a spectrum of tropical convective clouds relevant to tropical cyclone genesis off the coast of Central America. 

The NSF/NCAR GV preparing to depart for an OTREC research flight in Liberia, Costa Rica


The NSF/NCAR GV aircraft and a crew of EOL staff, along with scientists from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), deployed to Lima, Peru in late June 2019 to capture the total solar eclipse that occurred over the western Pacific Ocean on July 2.  The project’s goal was to take observations of the sun’s corona during the eclipse using the SAO AIR-Spec instrument from the high altitudes reachable by the GV. That altitude ensured clouds and other atmospheric constituents would not restrict views of the phenomenon.  The speed of the GV also allowed for longer time in the moon’s shadow, which allowed the science team to capture data over eight minutes of totality. Because of the remote location of the eclipse the GV recovered to Easter Island after collecting data on the successful single research flight. 

Eclipse2019 team and visitors in Lima, Peru before the July 2019 eclipse flight

The 2019 total eclipse as viewed from the GV

Chequamegon Heterogeneous Ecosystem Energy-balance Study Enabled by a High-density Extensive Array of Detectors (CHEESEHEAD)

A team of EOL staff supported the CHEESEHEAD campaign in the woods of Northern Wisconsin from June to October 2019.  This field campaign aimed to improve understanding of the complex interactions between the atmospheric boundary layer with the heterogeneous environment within the forests and wetlands that are widespread in the upper Midwest. The campaign was centered on a 10 km x 10 km area of the Chequamegon National Forest surrounding the 450 m tall WLEF television tower.  EOL deployed 17 Integrated Surface Flux System (ISFS) towers over the 10 km x 10 km grid.  Due to the heavily forested area, twelve of the towers were trailer-mounted self-erecting 30 mtowers, which required a minimal ground footprint and minimal guy wires. EOL also deployed the Integrated Sounding System (ISS), which included the 449 MHz Modular Wind Profiler, SODAR-RASS, ceilometer, and GPS water vapor measurements.  172 radiosondes were also launched from the ISS. The campaign was led by PIs from the University of Wisconsin, along with collaborators from other universities, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany. The University of Wyoming King Air, NOAA, and the U.S. Forest Service were also involved in the campaign.

30 m self erecting ISFS towers at CHEESEHEAD

449 MHz Wind Profiler at CHEESEHEAD

Remote Sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO)

RELAMPAGO was a large, complex, international deployment that began in FY 2018 and continued until April 2019 for the Extended Hydrometeorology Observing Period (EHOP). This portion of the campaign was supported by 15 EOL Integrated Surface Flux System (ISFS) that  included basic meteorology, radiation, and soil heating and moisture sensors. In addition, seven of the sites had 3-D sonic anemometers with H2O/CO2 infrared gas analyzers (IRGA) for the measurement of eddy covariance fluxes, which enabled calculation of the entire surface energy balance.  Ten of the sites had optical disdrometers, which recorded the particle size distribution every minute. EOL’s project management office was heavily involved, as was our data management facility.

RELAMPAGO took place in west central Argentina in the general vicinity of the Sierras de Córdoba (SDC) near Córdoba and the Andes foothills near Mendoza. Data from the campaign provided unique observations of atmospheric and surface conditions in a region with substantial terrain and explore a regime of convection not observed comprehensively. 

The EHOP overlapped with some portions of the U.S. Department of Energy's Cloud, Aerosol, and Complex Terrain Interactions (CACTI) campaign. The RELAMPAGO campaign was 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


ISFS Surface Flux 10 meter Towers in Argentina for RELAMPAGO