Staff News

NCAR Visitor Center - One-Day Closure - Saturday 10/25 more info>

Three NCAR researchers join senior scientist ranks

June 14, 2012 | At its May meeting, the UCAR Board of Trustees appointed three new NCAR senior scientists:


You’ll find profiles of each of them below.

Senior scientists provide NCAR with long-term scientific leadership. The qualifications for the position are analogous to those for a full professor at a university. Selection is based on individual competence in research and activities that enhance NCAR’s interaction with scientists in the broader community.

The board also appointed two NCAR researchers to the Scientist III level, which is one step below senior scientist:

  • Christine Wiedinmyer, NESL/ACD
  • John Dennis, CISL


Three researchers were appointed as affiliate scientists in NESL:

  • Ed Balisteri, Colorado School of Mines, working with NESL/CGD
  • Enrique Curchitser, Rutgers University, working with NESL/CGD
  • John Finnegan, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), working with NESL/MMM


Frank Bryan

Frank Bryan portrait
Frank Bryan. (©UCAR. Photo by Bob Henson. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Frank heads NESL/CGD’s Oceanography Section, where he studies the role of the ocean in the climate system using numerical models. A major topic of his work is the thermohaline circulation—the global, 3-D movement of ocean water driven by temperature and salinity—and its response to climate change. Another topic has been the role of ocean mesoscale eddies, features within the larger-scale ocean circulation that span 60 miles (100 kilometers) or less and last from weeks to months.

Frank has been a major contributor to the development of the ocean component of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) and was one of the designers of the original hub-and-spoke flux coupler that connects the CESM’s major components. He has applied his expertise in ocean modeling to the design of several satellite missions. A participant in several U.S. and international working groups and panels on ocean science, Frank currently serves as an editor for the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Frank joined NCAR as a postdoctoral researcher in 1985 after completing his bachelor’s degree in atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and his master’s and doctorate in geophysical fluid dynamics at Princeton University.

Hanli Liu

Hanli Liu portrait
Hanli Liu. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Hanli’s research includes theoretical, numerical, and interpretive studies of the dynamics, structure, and solar-terrestrial responses of the Earth’s middle and upper atmosphere. He is particularly interested in modeling physical and chemical processes on both global and local scales, as well as the nonlinear couplings of processes between global and regional scales and between atmospheric regions.

Hanli also works on developing and improving general circulation models (GCMs) and creating parameterization schemes for them. These include the NCAR Thermosphere-Ionosphere- Mesosphere-Electrodynamics GCM (TIME-GCM) and the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). Hanli is leading the extension of WACCM upward into the thermosphere and ionosphere.

Hanli received a bachelor’s degree in fluid mechanics from the University of Science and Technology of China and a doctorate in atmospheric and space physics from the University of Michigan. He joined NCAR in 1997 as a postdoctoral researcher.

Sarah Gibson

Sarah Gibson portrait
Sarah Gibson. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Sarah’s research centers on solar drivers of the terrestrial environment, from short-term space weather drivers such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), to long-term solar cycle variation with emphasis on the Sun-Earth system at solar minimum. She is particularly interested in understanding twisted magnetic structures located in the Sun’s corona that may be linked to CMEs. She also studies high-speed streams of solar wind that can affect Earth even when the Sun is near the “quiet” minimum stage in the solar cycle.

Sarah has attacked these problems in part by organizing international working groups and campaigns. Two recent examples are the Whole Sun Month and Whole Heliosphere Interval, which were observing and modeling efforts designed to characterize the interconnected environment from Sun to Earth at solar minimum.

Sarah received her bachelor’s degree in physics from Stanford University and a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Colorado Boulder. Following a one-year visit to Cambridge University as a NATO/NSF post-doctoral fellow and nearly four years at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, she joined HAO as a visiting scientist in 2001.