Baghdad to Boulder

Iraqi scientists make landmark visit


Iraqi visitors show their voting fingers

"I voted last week": Traces of purple ink were still visible on the index fingers of Ali Sabeeh Dawood, Husam Hanna Habib, and Abdul Kareem Mohammad (left to right) when they visited Rick Anthes at the Fleischmann Building on 16 February.

Many atmospheric researchers are accustomed to collaborating with people around the globe. But a recent U.S. visit by three scientists from abroad carried more meaning than usual. It was the first delegation of Iraqi scientists to visit the United States in decades.

Boulder’s NCAR and NOAA labs played host to Abdul Kareem Mohammad, Husam Hanna Habib, and Ali Sabeeh Dawood on February 16–20. All three are part of the Space Observatory and Simulation Research Center, where Abdul is head, Husam is co-head, and Ali is a physicist. The center is based in Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology, which was established in 2003. “We want to make the reconstruction of our country by education and by science,” Abdul Kareem told the Boulder Daily Camera.


The visit was coordinated by Randolph “Stick” Ware, visiting scientist at MMM and chief scientist of the Boulder firm Radiometrics. It emerged from a routine request placed last year by the Iraqi Meteorological Organization to purchase a radiometer from Ware’s company. Normally, staff from Radiometrics would travel to the purchaser’s location to install the equipment and train users, but the Baghdad location proved problematic. “Then we set up training in Jordan, but for some reason that fell apart, so the Iraqis said they’d try to come to our lab,” Stick said. After a months-long wait, the scientists were granted U.S. visas in late January.


Along with their visit to Radiometrics, group members spent a full day at NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory and several mornings and afternoons meeting with NCAR scientists and touring the Mesa Laboratory. The group also paid a visit to the floor of the Colorado State Senate on February 25. The scientists’ strongest interests included GPS-based atmospheric observations and weather modification.


“I am very happy here,” Abdul Kareem told Staff Notes. “I find all the scientists are very generous in helping us out.”


Stick was moved by the purple ink still visible on the index fingers of the visitors, who had voted in Iraqi elections only a week beforehand. “The three purple fingers—that’s a sign of democracy. It was a really compelling image,” says Stick.



Iraqi visitors show their voting fingers

Watch the Iraqi scientists at a meeting on February 20 with Stick Ware and ESSL/HAO staff, including HAO director Michael Knolker. Or download the high-resolution version.

MMM’s Syed Rafat Husain Rizvi, a former meteorologist with the Indian Meteorological Department, hosted the group for a Saturday-night dinner on February 21. Rizvi encouraged the group to consider exploring the Weather Research and Forecasting model and its data-assimilation version. “I was delighted to hear their views about rebuilding Iraq,” says Rizvi. He adds that the U.S. visit will provide valuable input for the Iraqi Ministry of Science as they explore possibilities for future U.S.–Iraqi scientific collaboration.


“The Iraqi scientists had a very good sense of humor,” says Rizvi. As it turns out, Rizvi and his wife have the same color of couch and carpet as Abdul Kareem, who told Rizvi, “I feel absolutely relaxed. Looks like I am in my own home.” Rizvi says that his wife “carefully chose the menu to suit the Iraqi taste,” including such dishes as malai kofta with chapati, kabab, chicken mughlai biryani, kheer, and darjeeling tea. “I am sure they enjoyed the dinner as we enjoyed their company.”