The Nineteen Seventies

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The Cray-1 served as the focal point of NCAR’s computing center.

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The Colorado Lee Wave Observational Study sends instrumented aircraft into the localized, violent wind storms that strike just east of Colorado's Front Range.


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NCAR's Roland Madden (pictured) and Paul Julian discover the Madden-Julian Oscillation, a sequence of atmospheric waves in the tropical Pacific that influences weather and climate systems worldwide.


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Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, and a large crew set up shop at the Mesa Lab for a week, filming key scenes for the futuristic Allen comedy Sleeper. A few staff took vacation time to earn $20 per day as extras (minus a $3 agent's commision).


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Margaret LeMone, later the first woman to become an NCAR senior scientist, organizes the American Meteorological Society's first-ever session on the role of women in atmospheric sciences.


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Paul Crutzen, who later earned a Nobel Prize for his work on stratospheric ozone depletion, takes the helm of NCAR's Atmospheric Quality Division, which eventually becomes the Atmospheric Chemistry Division.

With a new central laboratory in place, NCAR and UCAR progressed from their exuberant youth into an eventful adolescence in the 1970s.  The university consortium continued to grow, expanding from 30 members in 1970 to 48 by 1979.  As with most teenagers, there was occasional turbulence. Tight budgets and external critiques led to changes in management early in the decade. Some research areas grew in scope and influence, such as severe-storm studies, while others, such as atmospheric chemistry, went through periods of retrenchment. Through it all, NCAR’s influence as a cohesive force in atmospheric and related science continued to strengthen. Scores of university researchers took advantage of the center’s growing fleet of aircraft; its new lineup of portable, automated surface weather stations; and its first supercomputer.  NCAR’s Mesa Lab also gained stature as a commons for visiting scientists from across the world. The larger culture around the lab was changing dramatically, however, and the upheavals could not help but influence life at NCAR. Before the decade was out, NCAR had explored new programs to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities in its research. The center also took its first steps into researching how weather and climate affected society and held some of the first workshops devoted to human-induced climate change.


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