Policy & Society

UCAR statement on nomination of Walter Copan to head NIST

BOULDER, Colo. — The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) congratulates Walter Copan on his nomination as undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology and director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).Copan, an expert in technology transfer and intellectual property, is president and CEO of Colorado-based Intellectual Property Engineering Group. He previously served at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and at Brookhaven National Laboratory, leading technology commercialization and R&D partnerships."Walt is a widely respected scientist, innovator, and administrator with extensive experience in moving research to the market where it can benefit society," said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. "His knowledge of weather, climate, and space weather will foster new areas of cooperation between NIST and the Earth system science community."NIST is a measurement standards laboratory that promotes innovation and industrial competitiveness. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides guidance to organizations on reducing cybersecurity risks.UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related sciences.

UCAR statement on nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine to lead NASA

BOULDER, Colo. — The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) congratulates U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine on his nomination to serve as administrator of NASA.Bridenstine, a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve and former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium, won election to Congress in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District. As a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, he has played a leading role in supporting weather research, including passage of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017."In the two times I testified before his congressional committees, it became quite apparent to me that Rep. Bridenstine is a true champion for the weather community,” said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. “We appreciate his deep understanding of the importance of improved weather prediction for the U.S. economy and national security, as well as for protecting lives and property. As someone who worked for NASA for 18 years, I look forward to Rep. Bridenstine's confirmation hearings and learning about his plans for the agency, including his support of Earth observations and research that are so essential for understanding our planet's weather and climate."In addition to running the nation's civilian space program, NASA operates a fleet of satellites and observation campaigns to learn more about our planet through the Earth Observing System. Its research also focuses on advancing understanding of the Sun, solar system, and the universe.UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related Earth system sciences.

UCAR statement on nomination of Timothy Gallaudet

BOULDER, Colo. — The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) congratulates Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, a former oceanographer of the Navy, on his nomination to assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. In that position, Gallaudet will serve as the second-in-command at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Gallaudet, who also served as commander of the Navy’s Meteorology and Oceanography Command, is a 32-year Navy veteran. He holds master's and doctoral degrees in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography."Tim's mixture of operational expertise and scientific knowledge make him an ideal choice for this position," said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. "His understanding of the vital collaborations between NOAA, private forecasting companies, and the academic community can help foster the movement of research to operational forecasting and advance the nation's weather prediction capabilities. Furthermore, his knowledge of Earth system science and his ability to align that science with budget and programs will be essential to moving NOAA forward in the next few years."NOAA runs the National Weather Services, engages in weather and climate research, and operates weather satellites and a climate data center. The agency also works to better understand and protect the nation's coasts, oceans, and fisheries.UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related sciences.

UCAR statement on U.S. withdrawal from Paris climate agreement

BOULDER, Colo. — President Donald Trump today announced he is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a global pact signed by more than 190 countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions. He also said he would seek to renegotiate it or forge a new agreement. Antonio J. Busalacchi, the president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), issued the following statement:Today's decision to begin withdrawing from the Paris Agreement under its current terms creates new uncertainties about the future of our climate. At a time when our economic well-being and national security depend increasingly on accurate predictions of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, investments in climate research are even more necessary so scientists can project climate change in the new policy environment.Climate change poses major risks to food and water supplies, transportation systems, and other resources in the United States and worldwide. Rising temperatures and their impacts on weather patterns are creating additional stress at a time of international conflicts, endangering our economic and military security. If average global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius — the target of the Paris Agreement — research indicates that damaging impacts, such as sea level rise, intense heat waves and droughts, and shifts in weather patterns and storms will become more severe. With today’s decision, scientists will need to focus more attention on the potential ramifications of failing to curb emissions sufficiently to meet the 2-degree target.Nations are amassing information about future climate conditions as a necessary precondition for competing in the global marketplace. Multinational corporations are seeking to mitigate their exposure to climate risks, and if they cannot get the needed information from U.S.-funded research they will go elsewhere to get the most authoritative information. U.S. rivals, including China, are conducting vigorous climate research projects that support their economic and military investments and expand their influence worldwide. Even if the United States no longer participates in climate agreements, it cannot afford to cede climate knowledge to overseas competitors.Climate research is fundamentally nonpartisan. The work under way at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in collaboration with our partners at government agencies, the university community, and the private sector, builds an evidence-based picture of the possible future impacts of climate change. As always, we stand ready to provide the results of our scientific inquiry to Congress and the administration in order to keep our nation secure and prosperous.Today's decision does not mean that climate change will go away. To the contrary, the heightened potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions poses a substantial threat to our communities, businesses, and military. The work by U.S. researchers — to understand and anticipate changes in our climate system and determine ways to mitigate or adapt to the potential impacts — is now more vital than ever.

UCAR statement on President Trump's budget proposal

BOULDER, Colo. — Antonio J. Busalacchi, the president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), issued the following statement about the federal budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, which the Trump administration released today following its budget blueprint in March:Today's budget proposal, which identifies the priorities of the White House, marks a major step in the months-long process by the Trump administration and Congress to  finalize the budget for the 2018 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. UCAR is working with its partners in the Earth system science community to ensure that the government continues to invest in crucial research and scientific infrastructure that saves lives and property, supports our continued economic competitiveness, and strengthens our national security.Improved understanding of the atmosphere is crucial for our nation's resilience. Last year alone, the United States experienced 15 weather-related disasters that each reached or exceeded $1 billion in costs, including tornadoes, drought, and widespread flooding. Even routine weather events have an annual economic impact of hundreds of billions of dollars, affecting transportation, supply chain management, consumer purchasing, and virtually every other economic sector. Higher up in our atmosphere, space weather events pose an ongoing threat to GPS systems, communications networks, power grids, and other technologies that are essential for the everyday functioning of our nation.Thanks to collaborations among government agencies, universities, and the private sector, scientists are developing increasingly advanced observing instruments and computer models to better understand these threats. We are gaining the ability to predict major atmospheric and related events weeks, months, or even more than a year in advance, providing needed environmental intelligence to business, military, and public safety leaders. As U.S. competitors make major investments into better observing, understanding, and predicting the Earth system, it is more imperative than ever to continue this work in order to maintain American preeminence in the world.We are concerned that the administration's proposed cuts to research into the Earth system sciences will undermine the continued scientific progress that is so vitally needed to better protect the nation in the future from costly natural disasters. This would have serious repercussions for the U.S. economy and national security, and for the ability to protect life and property. Such funding cuts would be especially unfortunate at a time when the nation is moving to regain its position as the world leader in weather forecasting.UCAR is extremely grateful to the bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate that voted to sustain research funding in the current fiscal year. We look forward to working with Congress in the months ahead to maintain the level of funding needed in the fiscal year 2018 budget to support essential Earth system science research.

UCAR to co-anchor Colorado's Innovation Corridor

BOULDER, Colo. — The Colorado Innovation Corridor, a new platform to connect premier, federally funded labs with private industry, will be co-anchored by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). The partnership is designed to foster economic development and job creation.UCAR and NREL will be linked to private companies through the global marketplace collaborations at FORMATIV's new World Trade Center (WTC) Denver Development in the city's River North neighborhood. FORMATIV is the Denver-based real estate development firm behind the WTC Denver Development.“The resources associated with these two labs are unlike anything else in the world," said Eric Drummond, president of global strategy and chief legal officer of FORMATIV. "We are absolutely thrilled to have them as founding partners of The Innovation Corridor."An artist's rendition of the World Trade Center Denver Development (Image courtesy FORMATIV.) UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on behalf of the National Science Foundation. It plays a central role in raising awareness of the value of continued federal investment in the lifesaving, economically critical work provided by the Earth systems science community, including improved forecasts of weather, water, climate, and solar storms.The Innovation Corridor will develop connections among the national labs, FORMATIV, and the private sector, providing scientists with an opportunity to demonstrate the newest technology and meet with potential business partners and investors."Private companies throughout the Front Range and beyond will now be able to harness breakthroughs by our scientists more effectively, thanks to this new partnership," said UCAR President Antonio J. Busalacchi. "The Innovation Corridor will leverage cutting-edge science in ways that will generate jobs, advance technologies needed to protect life and property, and boost U.S. competitiveness in the global economy."FORMATIV is a dynamic real estate and community development company that works to create transformative commercial and mixed-use projects. Its team focuses on building innovative business and community-based ecosystems in Denver and globally.The U.S. Department of Energy's NREL is the federal government's primary laboratory dedicated to research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.Writer:David Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations

Building roads to match tomorrow's weather

April 20, 2017 | When engineers design roads, bridges, and other types of transportation infrastructure, they need to account for local weather patterns. Extreme heat or freeze-thaw cycles can lead to ruts and cracks in roads, and heavy rains can overwhelm inadequate drainage systems, washing out bridges and flooding key transportation corridors.But how should engineers design new transportation projects, which may last for a half-century, if climate change will greatly alter weather patterns? The extent to which temperatures and precipitation may change in the future has become a major concern for the transportation industry.To address this issue, climate scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are launching an innovative collaboration with civil and environmental engineers at Carnegie Mellon University and the RAND Corporation. They're using global and regional computer models, along with statistical techniques, to generate projections of future climate in ways that will be most helpful to infrastructure designers and planners, especially when it comes to drainage.A girl looks at a washed-out road in Louisville, Colorado, after damaging floods in 2013. Engineers are teaming up with climate scientists to design transportation infrastructure that can withstand shifting weather patterns. (Photo by David Hosansky.)The three-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will focus on Pittsburgh and several other cities across the country that will likely be affected in different ways by future climate."Our overriding goal is to enable transportation agencies to maximize the lifetime performance of new infrastructure while minimizing the costs to ensure its resilience to extreme weather events," said NCAR senior scientist Linda Mearns, the principal investigator on the project.Several recent studies led by NCAR scientists have underscored the extent to which climate change may affect future temperature and precipitation extremes in the United States. One concluded that, if emissions of greenhouse gases continue along a business-as-usual course, record daily high temperatures will outpace record daily lows by about 15 to 1 later in the century. A second study, also looking at emissions continuing on a business-as-usual path, concluded that incidents of extreme rainfall may increase by as much as five times in parts of the country.More detail means more uncertaintyTo conduct the new project, Mearns and her colleagues are working closely with local transportation officials and other stakeholders. Rather than analyzing the overall ways that climate is likely to change in the target cities, they're focusing on information that will be most useful to the design and construction of drainage infrastructure and other transportation systems."This requires very active engagement with stakeholders," Mearns said. "It's working together to determine what they want versus what we can actually provide and coming up with measures of uncertainty that are meaningful for them. This is in the realm of true coproduction of knowledge."For example, an engineer designing a drainage system along a highway might want an estimate of how much precipitation will fall in 15-minute increments. Although climate models do not provide such detailed information, Mearns and her colleagues can provide a partial answer by using a combination of techniques to produce projections of future precipitation every hour to several hours, as well as characterizing the uncertainty around those projections.A major challenge is that more detailed projections have greater uncertainty. While climate models consistently show that emissions of greenhouse gases lead to higher average global temperatures, the outlook is less clear for temperature and precipitation patterns by region. The type of information most needed by infrastructure planners and designers—projections of extreme temperatures and precipitation for specific locations and time periods—is even more uncertain. As a result, the study team will have to make compromises between the need for high-resolution data and the need for reliable data.Mearns said it's critical to give engineers a clear understanding of the uncertainty of a particular projection in order to prevent transportation projects from being based on a false sense of precision in climate projections. "The challenge," she said, "is developing sound engineering strategies for extremes under uncertainty."In addition to Mearns, the NCAR scientists working on the project include Seth McGinnis, Melissa Bukovsky, Rachel McCrary, and Doug Nychka. The Carnegie Mellon team is being led by Costa Samaras, who directs the school's Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation.“This project is a unique interdisciplinary collaboration that will advance the ways engineers and climate scientists will work together in the future,” said Samaras. “Infrastructure can last for many decades, and engineers need to design infrastructure to be resilient at the end of the infrastructure life span as well as in the beginning. Working with NCAR is critical to advancing the research needed to transform the way we design infrastructure in the United States."The benefit of different techniquesTo generate climate projections, Mearns and her colleagues will use two types of techniques to translate the coarse resolution of a global computer model, which typically simulates climate processes that are larger than about 100 miles, into the localized weather events that are of interest to transportation experts.One of these techniques, known as dynamical downscaling, will use a combination of three coarser-resolution global climate models and two higher-resolution regional models (including the NCAR-based Weather Research and Forecasting model, or WRF). This will enable the researchers to simulate the entire globe in coarse resolution while zooming in on selected regions with much higher resolution. This approach doesn't need as much supercomputing power as trying to simulate the entire globe in high resolution, although it still can be computationally intensive.The other technique, known as statistical downscaling, involves developing statistical relationships between large-scale atmospheric patterns and local temperatures and precipitation. This technique, which requires even less computing, can help scientists link conditions in a global model (such as a large area of low pressure) to a localized weather event (such as intermittent downpours).The combined approaches will enable the scientists to generate projections for at least every six hours, and possibly—with the use of additional specialized techniques—as frequently as every hour. Using both the dynamical and statistical approaches also will enable the team to better understand the uncertainties around future climate as well as evaluate the relative strengths of the techniques."Transportation systems are critical to the U.S. economy, and they represent some of the largest investments of our tax dollars," Mearns said. "We want to make sure that they'll hold up to a future climate."FunderNational Science FoundationPartnersCarnegie Mellon UniversityRAND CoroporationWriter/contactDavid Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations

Congressional briefing on wildland fires

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scientists and fire experts are making landmark progress in developing new tools to improve the management and prediction of wildland fires, a panel of experts said at a congressional briefing today. The developments offer the potential of better protecting vulnerable residents and property from these extreme events, as well as reducing their costs. The briefing, sponsored by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), highlighted the development of new observing tools and advanced computer models to better understand wildland fires. "We're at a turning point where new technologies and advances in basic research are enabling us to tackle a major real-world problem," said UCAR President Antonio J. Busalacchi. "Federal and state agencies, firefighters, and scientists are all working together to develop a new generation of tools that will keep firefighters safer, reduce the costs of these massive conflagrations, and better safeguard lives and property."Bureau of Land Management firefighter near Burns, Oregon, in September 2011. (Photo by Dave Toney, BLM Oregon.)UCAR is a consortium of 110 universities that manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on behalf of the National Science Foundation. NCAR's wildland fire research includes working with Colorado on an advanced prediction system.Toll of wildland fires The costs of forest, grass, and other types of wildland fires are increasing dramatically. In 2016 alone, more than 67,000 wildfires consumed 5.5 million acres across the nation. The U.S. Forest Service spends more than $2.5 billion annually on fire management, an increase of more than 60 percent over the last decade. The total losses can run many times higher: Last year's Chimney Tops 2 fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, left 14 people dead and destroyed more than 2,400 structures at a cost of $500 million. "The money spent by the federal government on suppressing the fires is only a fraction of the overall costs, such as the destruction of houses and other property," said Michael Gollner, assistant professor at the University of Maryland's Department of Fire Protection Engineering. "There are more large-scale fires than there used to be, and those are the most dangerous blazes that are particularly expensive and destructive." Donald Falk, assistant professor of the University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources and the Environment, warned that decades of fire suppression coupled with drier and warmer temperatures in some regions will lead to longer fire seasons and more major fires. "The problem is not going away," he said. "It's going to get bigger, and we're going to have to live with it without breaking the bank." Wildland fires are extremely difficult to predict because they are influenced by local topography and vegetation, as well as by atmospheric conditions that, in turn, are affected by a blaze's heat and smoke. To better anticipate fire risk as well as predict a fire once it has started, scientists are harnessing new technologies. These include specialized satellite instruments and unmanned aerial vehicles to observe the blazes, as well as specialized computer models that incorporate weather-fire interactions, the density and condition of vegetation, landscape features such as elevation and topography, and the physics of fires. The researchers are working with federal and state agencies, emergency managers, and firefighters to adapt the new capabilities for real-time decision support. "Practitioners and scientists are bringing their expertise and knowledge to the table in order to create new evolutions of technology that will result in safer and more effective firefighting, enhance how we predict events and their potential impacts, and better plan for ways to prevent those wildfires we consider harmful," said Todd Richardson, state fire management officer of the Bureau of Land Management's Colorado office. "Having better guidance prior to planning your fire operations can provide critical information to the tactical operations and fire management," said William Mahoney, interim director of NCAR's Research Applications Laboratory. "Taking advantage of these important data sources and integrating these research areas provides tremendous opportunities to advance wildland fire management." The event is the latest in a series of UCAR congressional briefings that draw on expertise from the university consortium and public-private partnerships to provide insights into critical topics in the Earth system sciences. Past briefings have focused on predicting space weather, aviation weather safety, the state of the Arctic, hurricane prediction, potential impacts of El Niño, and new advances in water forecasting.

UCAR praises passage of Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act

Update: April 18, 2017Today President Donald Trump signed H.R. 353, the "Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017," into law.BOULDER, Colo. — With the unanimous passage of legislation to improve weather research and prediction, Congress has taken a major step today toward strengthening the nation's resilience to severe weather and boosting U.S. economic competitiveness."This landmark legislation will save lives and property while providing business leaders with critical intelligence," said Antonio J. Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). "Today's bipartisan vote underscores the enduring value of scientific research to our nation."The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act is the first major weather legislation since the early 1990s. It calls for more research into subseasonal to seasonal prediction, a priority for business and community leaders who need more reliable predictions of weather patterns weeks to months in advance. The bill also will strengthen short-term weather forecasts and smooth the way for research findings to be adopted by forecasters and commercial weather companies.Antonio J. Busalacchi. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)Improved short- and long-term weather predictions have major implications for public safety and the economy. The nation experienced 15 weather and climate disasters last year that cost $1 billion dollars or more, including tornadoes and widespread flooding that left dozens dead. Even routine weather events can affect transportation, supply chain management, consumer purchasing, and other sectors, with a collective impact of hundreds of billions of dollars on the U.S. economy.Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is managed by UCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation, have estimated that weather forecasts provide an annual benefit to the American public of more than $30 billion, compared with about $5 billion spent on generating U.S. weather forecasts."Research into the atmosphere provides an enormous return on investment," Busalacchi said. "Weather affects all of us, and being able to make plans based on forecasts of likely weather conditions is literally worth many billions of dollars to households and businesses."Decades of investments by federal agencies in weather research, observing systems, computer models, and supercomputing resources are dramatically advancing our understanding of how our atmosphere works. Five-day weather forecasts now are as reliable as two-day forecasts used to be, hurricane forecasts will soon extend out to seven days, and scientists are starting to find ways to project certain events, such as droughts and heat waves, a month or longer in advance.The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act is designed to strengthen:forecasts of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other severe stormslong-range prediction of weather patterns, from two weeks to two years aheadcommunication of forecasts, which influences subsequent decisions by public safety officials, businesses, and the publictsunami warningsthe process of moving research into operations and commercializationThe legislation (HR 353) was introduced by Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. Co-sponsors include Sen. Brian Schatz and Reps. Jim Bridenstine, Lamar Smith, Dana Rohrabacher, Chris Stewart, Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, and Suzanne Bonamici.The bipartisan bill authorizes spending increases at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for weather research focused on observations, models, and more powerful computing resources. It authorizes spending for COSMIC-2 an innovative suite of micro-satellites that will provide critical atmospheric observations, with multiagency support provided by UCAR, NOAA, the U.S. Air Force, the National Science Foundation, and Taiwan's National Space Organization. The legislation also expands commercial opportunities to provide weather data while increasing the efficiency of NOAA's weather satellite programs."We are very appreciative of the work by Senator Thune, Representative Lucas, and the many co-sponsors in the House and Senate," Busalacchi said."As the United States faces an increasingly competitive global marketplace, it needs more accurate and longer-term weather forecasts," he added. "At UCAR we look forward to working with NOAA, the Department of Defense, and the other federal agencies; the private sector; and the university community to build off of the National Science Foundation investment in basic research in this essential area."

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