UCAR President's Office

A record winter during the American Revolution almost put independence on ice

December 18, 2017 | The seasonal forecasts are in for this winter, and they generally indicate relatively average conditions across much of the country's midsection, with wetter-than-normal weather likely in the north and dryness in the South.Continuing to improve these longer-term forecasts can help communities and businesses prepare for particular weather patterns — and possibly even save lives.In fact, a good seasonal forecast could even have made a difference during a critical moment in the American Revolution.This National Park Service painting portrays conditions at the Continental Army's New Jersey encampment in the winter of 1779-80, with a hospital hut in the foreground. (Image from Morristown National Historic Park.)No East Coast season on record was colder than the winter of 1779-80. All of the saltwater inlets, harbors, and sounds of the Atlantic coastal plain froze over from Canada to North Carolina, remaining closed to navigation for a month or more for the only time in recorded history.The winter happened to occur during the height of the Revolutionary War. George Washington and his soldiers were greeted by a foot of snow that already lay on the ground in November 1779 when they began arriving at their winter quarters outside Morristown, New Jersey.The ensuing winter months almost cost the young nation its independence. The Continental Army was hammered by repeated snowstorms, including a blizzard in early January that dumped four feet of snow. Many of the soldiers lacked coats, shirts, shoes, and even food.As the winter wore on, the soldiers became more embittered and mutinous than during the storied but milder winter two years earlier in Valley Forge. If not for help from surrounding communities during the winter of 1779-80, they may have deserted or even starved to death, potentially changing the course of history.Could such a winter be predicted today?Longer-term forecasting in the two-week to three-month range is one of the most difficult challenges in meteorology. These subseasonal to seasonal forecasts, while providing general guidance, still lack much precision.This winter, for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the chances are roughly equal for conditions that are wetter or drier than normal across large swaths of the mid-Atlantic. Even a forecast of a wetter-than-average winter could play out in many ways, from a series of light rains to a couple of blockbuster snowstorms.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's forecast for wintertime precipitation, released in October, projects drier-than-normal conditions in the South and wetter-than-normal conditions in parts of the North. Click here for an analysis of the forecast by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, as well as a forecast map that includes Alaska and Hawaii. To add more detail to such forecasts, scientists are working to better understand the links between U.S. weather patterns and large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions, such as El Niño and the North Atlantic Oscillation (more popularly known as the "polar vortex" when it ushers in cold weather).Recognizing the importance of such research, Congress in April passed the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, a major weather bill that calls for more work into subseasonal to seasonal prediction.If the modern understanding of the atmosphere and oceans had existed during the American Revolution, perhaps Washington and his soldiers could have taken more precautions. The next time the nation is threatened by an unusually severe winter, better forecasts may make it possible to prepare."Scientists are gaining new insights into the entire Earth system in ways that will lead to predictions of weather patterns weeks, months, or even more than a year in advance," said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. "History shows this type of intelligence can be critical to national security, as well as to businesses and vulnerable communities."Writer/contact: David HosanskyManager of Media Relations  

UCAR names inaugural Next Generation Fellows

BOULDER, Colo. — The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research has announced winners of the inaugural UCAR Next Generation Fellowships. The first cohort of three graduate students was selected from a highly competitive field. The fellowships are intended for graduate students from underrepresented communities who hold an undergraduate degree in atmospheric or related Earth system science and are attending a North American university for graduate work. Successful candidates receive financial support for two years of graduate school and two summer internships.The program offers three distinct tracks: Earth system science, diversity and inclusion in the Earth system sciences, and public policy."I am excited to welcome this talented inaugural cohort," said Antonio Busalacchi, UCAR president. "We created the Next Generation Fellowships because we recognize the value and importance of fostering greater diversity in Earth system science. I look forward to the mutual benefits that interaction with our new fellows will bring and welcome them to the UCAR community."The 2017 UCAR Next Generation Fellows(*indicates a UCAR Member Institution)Tania Lopez - Earth System Science FellowCarnegie Mellon UniversityUCAR Fellow Tania Lopez At Carnegie Mellon University, Tania Lopez is studying civil and environmental engineering as a first-year Ph.D. student. Her examination of engineering design standards and of changes in observed extreme precipitation are the first phases in her research on the impact of climate change on precipitation patterns for stormwater infrastructure design decisions, performance, and resilience. Lopez is interested in developing more expertise in computational and statistical tools for analyzing precipitation data and understanding changes in current and projected future patterns. These interests will bring her to Boulder to strengthen collaboration with NCAR scientists during her summer internships in 2018 and 2019.Lopez received a B.S. in engineering physics from Mexico's Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM). She credits her family’s encouragement for her persistence pursuing and achieving her goals. "Despite the difficulties I came across pursuing higher education, I was not discouraged," she said. "My desire grew stronger and I could envision a clearer goal." That included a master’s in civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon, which she earned on the way to her current doctoral studies. "I have always felt passionate about my field, my decisions, and speaking up for minority inclusion," she said. Lopez sums up her career ambitions this way: "to serve as an effective intermediary between climate science and decision making concerned with engineered systems, where human needs and climate interact."Aara’L Yarber - Diversity and Inclusion FellowPennsylvania State University*UCAR Fellow Aara'L Yarber First-year doctoral student Aara’L Yarber is in the meteorology program at Pennsylvania State University. She is studying atmospheric and climate dynamics and their societal impacts, with particular interest in Africa and the Caribbean. Yarber is planning research using WRF, the Weather Research and Forecasting model, along with its dust module, with the goals of developing an observation network in West Africa and of improving understanding of dust transport and its linkage to respiratory disease. She will continue focusing on her dual interests in environmental science and environmental justice during her 2018 and 2019 summer internships in Boulder with the UCAR Office of Diversity and Inclusion.Yarber began her undergraduate studies at Howard University* with a focus on physics and astronomy. With several undergraduate courses in weather and climate under her belt, she then participated in an atmospheric field campaign in Sal, Cape Verde. It was the summer before her senior year, and during the campaign she "became fascinated with weather, climate, and air quality, and the effects of these phenomena on underrepresented groups." In pursuit of atmospheric science, she hopes "to contribute not only to scientific advancement but also positively influence social and environmental change." Her career goals include advocating for diversity in atmospheric science "not only for the sole purpose of scientific advancement but to provide voices for communities that have long faced environmental inequity."Linh Anh Cat - Public Policy FellowUniversity of California, Irvine*UCAR Fellow Linh Anh CatLinh Anh Cat is in the fourth year of the doctoral program in ecology at the University of California, Irvine. In addition to her dissertation work on patterns of fungal disease dispersal and climate change, she has written a science policy review linking that research to her public policy focus. The review examines valley fever, a fungal disease prevalent in the U.S. Southwest, and calls for binational cooperation with Mexico to study the negative impact of climate change on exposure. She will explore her policy interests during her summer 2018 and 2019 internships with UCAR’s Washington, D.C., office.For her undergraduate work at the University of Central Florida, Cat earned dual bachelor of science degrees in environmental studies (policy track) and in biology. She has contributed to an array of activities during her academic career that reflect her interest in working at the intersections of diversity, equity, inclusion, and science policy. In addition to her studies, these activities have ranged from organizing local science outreach events to serving on the American Association of University Women’s National Student Advisory Council to tackle women and minority representation in STEM. "My goal is to be a leader in science policy," Cat said. "I want to work on enacting innovative policies at the intersection between climate change, air quality, human health, and the disproportionate impact on women and minorities."

UCAR Town Hall - Update on Activities and Q & A - FL2

This is the second All-Staff Town Hall on 11/30:

Foothills Lab 2, 1022 Large Auditorium, 2:00-3:00 p.m.

There is an earlier Town Hall at the Mesa Lab, Main Seminar Room, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

UCAR Town Hall - Update on Activities and Q & A - Mesa Lab

This is one of two All-Staff Town Halls on 11/30:

Mesa Lab, 12:30-1:30 PM in the Main Seminar Room.

There will be a second Town Hall this afternoon at Foothills Lab 2 at 2:00-3:00 p.m.

Investing in climate observations would generate major returns

November 14, 2017 | A major new paper by more than two dozen climate experts concludes that a well-designed climate observing system could deliver trillions of dollars in benefits while providing decision makers with the information they need in coming decades to protect public health and the economy."We are on the threshold of a new era in prediction, drawing on our knowledge of the entire Earth system to strengthen societal resilience to potential climate and weather disasters," said Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and one of the co-authors. "Strategic investments in observing technologies will pay for themselves many times over by protecting life and property, promoting economic growth, and providing needed intelligence to decision makers."Elizabeth Weatherhead, a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, is the lead author of the new paper, published last week in Earth's Future. The co-authors include two scientists associated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research: Jeffrey Lazo and Kevin Trenberth.The scientists urge that investments focus on tackling seven grand challenges. These include predicting extreme weather and climate shifts, the role of clouds and circulation in regulating climate, regional sea level change and coastal impacts, understanding the consequences of melting ice, and feedback loops involving carbon cycling.For more about the paper, see the CIRES news release.

UCAR Congressional Briefing: Moving research to industry

WASHINGTON — Federally funded scientific advances are enabling the multibillion-dollar weather industry to deliver increasingly targeted forecasts to consumers and businesses, strengthening the economy and providing the nation with greater resilience to natural disasters, experts said today at a congressional briefing.The panel of experts, representing universities, federally funded labs, and the private sector, said continued government investment in advanced computer modeling, observing tools, and other basic research provides the foundation for improved forecasts.The nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) sponsored the briefing."Thanks to a quiet revolution in modern weather prediction, we can all use forecasts to make decisions in ways that wouldn't have been possible just 10 years ago," said Rebecca Morss, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and deputy director of the center's Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Lab. "Now we are looking to the next revolution, which includes giving people longer lead times and communicating risk as effectively as possible."Fuqing Zhang, a professor of meteorology and statistics at Pennsylvania State University, highlighted the ways that scientists are advancing their understanding of hurricanes and other storms with increasingly detailed observations and computer modeling. Researchers at Penn State, for example, fed data from the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration GOES-R satellite into NOAA's powerful FV3 model to generate an experimental forecast of Hurricane Harvey that simulated its track and intensity."The future of weather forecasting is very promising," said Zhang, who is also the director of the Penn State Center for Advanced Data Assimilation and Predictability Techniques.  "With strategic investments in observations, modeling, data assimilation, and supercomputing, we will see some remarkable achievements."Mary Glackin, director of science and forecast operations for The Weather Company, an IBM business, said the goal of the weather industry is to help consumers and businesses make better decisions, both by providing its own forecasts and by forwarding alerts from the National Weather Service. The Weather Company currently is adapting a powerful research weather model based at NCAR, the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS), for use in worldwide, real-time forecasts.The NCAR-based Model for Prediction Across Scales simulates the entire globe while enabling scientists to zoom in on areas of interest. It is one of the key tools for improving forecasts in the future. (©UCAR. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) "We have a weather and climate enterprise that we can be extremely proud of as a nation, but it's not where it should be," Glackin said. "Weather affects every consumer and business, and the public-private partnership can play a pivotal role in providing better weather information that is critically needed."Antonio Busalacchi, president of UCAR, emphasized the benefits of partnerships across the academic, public, and private sectors. He said that research investments by the National Science Foundation, NOAA, and other federal agencies are critical for improving forecasts that will better protect vulnerable communities and strengthen the economy."These essential collaborations between government agencies, universities, and private companies are driving landmark advances in weather forecasting," Busalacchi said. "The investments that taxpayers are making in basic research are paying off many times over by keeping our nation safer and more prosperous."The briefing was the latest in a series of UCAR Congressional Briefings that draw on expertise from UCAR's university consortium and public-private partnerships to provide insights into critical topics in the Earth system sciences. Past briefings have focused on wildfires, 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 statement on nomination of Barry Myers to head NOAA

BOULDER, Colo. — The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) congratulates Barry Myers on his nomination as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).Myers is CEO of AccuWeather and a leader of the American weather industry. He lent important support for the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, which emphasizes subseasonal to seasonal weather prediction — a priority for business and community leaders who need more reliable forecasts of weather patterns weeks to months in advance.His nomination, announced today by the White House, comes at a critical time as the United States works to strengthen its resilience to severe weather events and regain global leadership in the field of weather prediction."From my years of working with Barry, I know he appreciates the importance of re-establishing U.S. preeminence in weather prediction," said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. "I look forward to hearing Barry’s plans to improve weather forecasting through partnerships among government agencies, private companies, and the university community. As we have seen from the recent hurricanes, timely and accurate forecasts are critical for evacuating residents and protecting lives and property, as well as strengthening our economy and safeguarding national security.”In addition to running the National Weather Service, NOAA engages in weather and climate research and operates weather satellites and a national environmental data center. The agency also works to better understand and protect the nation's coasts, oceans, and fisheries.  

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.

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